The final first game of the first round of the playoffs drops the puck on the NHL betting lines on Friday night in South Florida, where the Florida Panthers meet the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils are probably the one team at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture smirking. They didn’t end up in the bracket of death that features the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, and while those two top contenders in the East duke it out for what is sure to be a great series, they get the chance to take on a Florida team that, in spite of the fact that it is the No. 3 seed in the conference, is largely looked at as the weakest team in the entire playoffs. New Jersey didn’t exactly tank games down the stretch to fall into the No. 6 hole, though. It has won its last six games, and in those games, it has averaged right at 4.0 goals per game. There are also just a total of nine goals allowed in those clashes as well. Martin Brodeur, who has been in this league for the last approximately 72 years, is set for another run at the playoffs after winning 31 games in the regular season, and this is as good of a chance as he has had in years of claiming that one final Stanley Cup before finally calling it quits with his Hall of Fame career.
The biggest questions that we have for the Panthers this year: Who are these guys, and how did they win the Southeast Division? It is Florida’s first division title in one of its best seasons ever, though there is still just one year, when it was in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche, that the team made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Still, looking at the names that are leading this team is a bit depressing. Tomas Fleischmann had 61 points, while Stephen Weiss had 57. Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell were both in the 50s, but after that, no one had more than the 33 points of Jason Garrison. Losing Tommy Vokoun in the offseason, especially to a divisional rival like the Washington Capitals, was supposed to be debilitating for a team that just didn’t find its way to the free agent pool all that much in the offseason. Instead, a retread like Jose Theodore now has a shot in the postseason after winning 22 games and posting a 2.46 GAA.
The Final Word: It’s just really hard to back the Panthers at all in this series. They really do seem to be overmatched by a team that is better than they are. That being said, we have no choice but to go with a New Jersey team that is hungry to prove that it is a Cup contender in spite of its questionable seeding.
New Jersey Devils @ Florida Panthers Pick: New Jersey Devils -115
Andrew Ryan has been in the sportswriting biz since the late-90s, and he has worked side by side with some of the best and brightest in sports gambling. Always searching for the best trends in sports, Andrew uses his brilliant math mind to his advantage to beat the books.