Apr 8, 2012, 12:40 PM EDT
How much does finishing the season on a high note matter going into the first round? The series between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers might be a case study in that. The Devils couldn’t be hotter going into the series after winning six straight contests to finish the regular season. Although all series start at 0-0 regardless of how you got that far, Ilya Kovalchuk thinks being hot going into the playoffs helps.
“Definitely,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “You can’t switch in one day and be a totally different team, so you want to prepare yourself the best you can physically and mentally. Winning six in a row will help our confidence for sure.”
The Florida Panthers are almost the polar opposite. They were able to end the season with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, but they have still only won just two of their last 10 games. The last time the Panthers beat a playoff-bound team was March 20 when they earned a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Martin Brodeur is happy with how the Devils finished the season, but he’s seen enough playoff action to know that they can’t discount the Florida Panthers despite their recent struggles.
“I thought we did a good job staying focused and getting prepared as well as we can. Just to get the (good) habits. In the playoffs you’re not going to just turn the switch,” Brodeur said. “But we’ve had teams that came in stumbling and we had years in which we came in doing well. You never know what’s going to happen. You roll the dice coming in hot, that’s for sure.”
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