For most of us, the only time we've seen the Panthers this year has been during the four meetings in the regular season. The head to head games between the Devils and Panthers are important to analyze, just because what usually happens in the regular season will happen in the post season. But then again, four games isn't a very big sample size. Not a lot of us have seen other Panthers games outside of these four games. To bring in a better perspective, I asked Alex Calloway, a contributor to SBNation's awesome Panthers blog Litter Box Cats to answer a few questions on the Panthers, mainly to give a better perspective on the Panthers. If you want, you can follow Alex on twitter @crooklynbanks
That's a great question, I say Dineen is the more important figure. It's not easy making a completely new roster click, but he did it.
Question 2: What has been the most important factor in the Panthers success this year?
The defense. The plus/minus may not say it, but the Panthers defense is the strength of the team.
Question 3: The Panthers goal differential is always talked about- is the defense as bad as the goal differential suggests?
I wouldn't say the defense is bad, it's the offense that's bad. In games where one or less goals was scored, the Panthers went 17-5-18. With three of more, 8-15-0. The Panthers offense has only nine players with ten or more goals, and ranks 25th in the NHL in goals for. While the defense has allowed 227 goals, the 17th best in the league.
Question 4: Which Panthers do you think will draw the assignment of defending Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise
Most likely the paring of Brian Campbell and Jason Garrison. The team's two best players. The forwards would be the top line of Tomas Fleischmann, the Panthers leading scorer, Stephen Weiss, the Panthers best defensive forward, and Kris Versteeg, the undersized two-way forward who isn't afraid to drop the gloves.
Question 5: With regards to question 4- how are the Panthers going to deal with the Devils secondary scoring, namely Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Dainius Zubrus?
That question scares me, even more since you left out Clarkson. The Panthers second paring of Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver is more defensive than the first paring but less likely to score, and the third paring of Ed Jovoanski and Erik Gudbranson is a wild card. Jovo isn't the 20-something PIM machine he was when he started in the NHL andGudbranson a 20 year old rookie still looking to find his game.
Some takeaways from Alex's comments- from what he's saying, the Panthers aren't going to beat the Devils with their offense. They're going to beat them by shutting them down. They've been good in one goal games, but those 18 OT losses indicate that they're going to be able to draw out games longer than usual. These games should be a war of attrition- considering that there are no shootouts, there could be several games going into double overtime. However, the Devils have been equally as good in 1 goal games, sporting a 24-7-6 record (2nd best in the league in terms of win %).
As for the offense, it just reinforces that the main guys that will be scoring are Fleischmann, Versteeg and Weiss (Brian Campbell won't score, but he can help). However, he mentioned that they're going to match power vs power, as those three will likely go up against Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk (when the Panthers are at home). The Devils should have an easy time at home simply because with Elias going up against their big three, the other forwards should have an easier time defending. The road matchups for the Devils are what worry me just because the Cats can focus on shutting down the big guns.
From Alex's comments on the Panthers, how do you think the series will play out? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.