This will be the fifth time the Hurricanes have been to the playoffs since moving to Carolina, with the previous years being 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2006. Take away their first postseason (which ended in Round 1 against Boston) and the Canes have faced the New Jersey Devils each time.
Outside of Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup season, when they met in the second round, the Devils and Hurricanes have met in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
So we're on a familiar path, even if most of the faces of changed. But rather than look at the past, we're going to take a voyage through this year's statistics and compare and contrast the first-round foes.
Let's start with some basic team statistics.
- New Jersey: 15th overall (18.9), 15th home (18.2), T-10th road (19.6)
- Carolina: 18th overall (18.7), 17th home (17.9), T-10th road (19.6)
- New Jersey: 20th overall (79.9), 26th home (78.0), 11th road (81.8)
- Carolina: 19th overall (80.4), T-16th home (80.8), T-18th road (80.0)
Assessment: With the exception of Carolina's penalty killing, both teams have been better on the road in special teams situations. Chances are, one team will need to elevate their play at home to take an advantage in the series.
Goals For And Against By Period: 1st-2nd-3rd-OT-Overall
- New Jersey: Goals For 69-87-73-9-238; Goals Against 57-74-74-2-207
- Carolina: 69-86-74-7-236; Goals Against 67-80-72-2-221
- Assessment: What a staggering similarity in goals for. The teams had the same number of regulation goals (229) and the period-by-period breakdown is nearly identical. But New Jersey is New Jersey, and their goals against is always near the bottom of the league (fourth this year). For their part, the Hurricanes turned around their defensive play with the hiring of Paul Maurice and finished eighth.
Various team tidbits
- New Jersey and Carolina rank first and second, respectively, in winning one-goal games. The Devils finished 25-5-4 (.735) while the Canes were 24-8-7 (.615). New Jersey was also tied for the league lead in three-goal wins (18).
- The Devils have a league-best .694 winning percentage when outshooting their opponent (34-15-0) while Carolina ranked 16th (27-20-5, .519). On the flip side, Carolina has a 17-9-2 record (.607, 5th) when outshot, and New Jersey was 11th (16-11-3, .533).
- New Jersey won .951 of the games they led after two periods, second to only Anaheim. Carolina won the third-most games when trailing after two (8-21-3, .250). The Devils also went 37-5-2 (.841) of the games in which they scored first, best in the league. Carolina was third in winning games in which they allowed the first goal (20-20-3, .465).
- As we've documented before, the Canes are the league's least penalized team, spending just 9.8 minutes in the box per game. New Jersey ranks ninth with 12.9 PIMs per game. Part of that can be attributed to a difference in major (see fighting) penalites. Carolina had just 26 (second-fewest in the NHL), less than half of New Jersey's total (58, T-22nd). That could even things out since fighting is always down in the playoffs.
- Carolina and New Jersey each won 51.3 percent of their faceoffs this season (T-eighth).
Assessment: The Devils are at their best when they get ahead — they always have been. That being said, Carolina has been very good at orchestrating comeback wins this year. With the special teams battle so close, the Hurricanes' tendency to take fewer penalties than their opponents — and draw more, too: 201 PP opportunities (second) to New Jersey's 159 (T-27th) — could tip the scale in their favor.
- Zach Parise's breakthrough season has him getting some fringe consideration for the Hart Trophy. He finished fifth in league scoring (94 points), third in goals (45), eighth in plus/minus (plus-30) and third in shots (364) — all in just 18:45 of ice time. Parise had three overtime winners this year, tied with Philly's Jeff Carter for the league lead.
- Eric Staal is Parise's closest contender in accolades. His 40 goals ranked him tied for fifth in the league and his 75 points ranked 25th. His 372 shots were second to only Alex Ovechkin (528 ... crazy). Staal is also tied for fifth in the league in first goals.
- Both Staal and Parise had 14 power-play goals, tied for eighth in the NHL. Both are also among the league leaders in road goals. Parise was tied for first with Columbus' Rich Nash and Buffalo's Thomas Vanek with 23, while Staal was one behind with 22. The Canes' Tuomo Ruutu was tied for 20th in the league with 17 road tallies. While Parise did his scoring on the road, he did his passing at home, finishing fourth in the league in home assists with 36.
- Patrick Elias has 31 goals (T-27th) and 47 assists (T-26th) for 78 points (T-20th).
- Ray Whitney led the Canes in scoring with 77 points (T-22nd) and 53 assists (12th). His 30 even-strength assists ranked tied for 20th. His 23 power play assists were tied for 19th.
- Brian Gionta had 31 even-strength assists, tied for 18th in the NHL. Parise also had 30, tied with Whitney, while Jamie Lagenbrunner and Travis Zajac each had 29.
- Ruutu was 10th in the NHL in hits with 228.
- Trade-deadline acquisition Niclas Havelid finished sixth in the NHL in blocked shots with 190. Carolina's Dennis Seidenberg was 17th with 160, while the Devils' Bryce Salvador was 26th with 147.
- Zajac finished plus-33, fourth in the NHL. At plus-25, Lagenbrunner was tied for 10th.
- With two goals in the season finale against the Devils, Anton Babchuk finished tied for fifth in goals by defensemen with 16. Joe Corvo was tied for 11th with 14.
- Four New Jersey defensemen were in the top 16 in plus/minus among blueliners. Mike Mottau (plus-24, fifth), Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin (plus-21, T-11th) and Colin White (plus-18, 16th). Babchuk was Carolina's best at plus-13, tied for 26th.
- Corvo had 22 power play points this season, tied for 20th among d-men.
- New Jersey's David Clarkson ranked 10th in PIMs with 164 and Michael Rupp was tied for 27th with 136.
- Rod Brind'Amour finished as the NHL's top faceoff man, finishing at 61.0 percent. Zajac was the Devils' top guy at 53.1 percent (23rd).
- Havelid lead the NHL in power play goals allowed when on the ice with 47, though the vast majority of them game from his time with Atlanta. He was also tied for sixth in overall goals allowed when on the ice with 108.
Assessment: Parise's been dominant all season, while Staal's numbers surged after the acquisition of Erik Cole. Whitney, Ruutu, Zajac, Elias and Lagenbrunner all provide solid secondary scoring, but Carolina's defense has a huge advantage in firepower. New Jersey's defense-first blueline doesn't make many mistakes.
- With 39 wins, Cam Ward finished third in the NHL, behind Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff (45) and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov (41). Scott Clemmensen (25) was tied for 20th, while Martin Brodeur wound up tied for 29th (19 wins) despite playing just 31 games. Clemmensen finished tied for seventh in goals-against average (2.39) and tied for ninth is save percentage (.917) while Ward was tied for 12th in GAA (2.44) and tied for 11th in save percentage (.916). Brodeur, who didn't play enough to qualify, finished with a .916 save percentage and 2.41 GAA.
- Ward's six shutouts were tied for sixth, while Brodeur had five and Clemmensen had a pair.
- Brodeur had an .848 save percentage when facing a power play, tied for 60th in the NHL. Ward and Clemmensen finished at .871 (T-35th).
Assessment: You can never discount Brodeur, but Ward has had a career year and is a proven playoff goalie, like his idol in the opposing net. This could be the year Brodeur proves less wear and tear does him well during the playoffs, or show that maybe the luster has simply come off on his postseason credentials. Perhaps no goalie in the league scares opponents quite like Ward can right now (perhaps Roberto Luongo). His dominant play over the second half coupled with his magical 2006 playoff run as a rookie surely has opposing coaches looking for a weakness (like Brodeur's stick side, low).