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Series at a Glance

Time off for New Jersey is longer than you think

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Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 10:31 AM

By Jamie MacDonald,

In one sense, the New Jersey Devils have been waiting about a week for the second round. In an entirely different sense, they've been waiting three years. Since beating the Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals, the Devils have been a study in playoff disappointment. One playoff series win. And none since 1997.

This year, though, there was almost no doubt. Shut down Pavel Bure, and you shut down the Panthers, some said. They were right. Thanks in large part to Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, who put on perhaps the most impressive defensive performance in the first round, both Bure and his teammates went quietly in four games.

It was a different story for the Maple Leafs, who were tied at 2-2 in the Battle of Ontario, before dusting the Senators off in a hard-fought six-game series. And they come out of that series with one of the hottest lines in the playoffs: Mats Sundin centering Steve Thomas and Jonas Hoglund. The offensive hero of that line (and the series), Thomas, scored more goals in the first round (6) than any other player in the Eastern Conference did. As a line, the threesome collected nine goals and 20 points, and was an astounding plus-25.

So it just makes sense that Toronto's next opponent is the one that put on the best shut-down job in the opening round.

Storylines We're Following

The great debate

To rest or not to rest, that is the question. The merits of finishing a series quickly will be debated after about the third whistle Thursday night. "The Devils look flat, did the Devils have too much time off?," or "The Leafs look tired, that six-game series may have taken something out of them." And once again, evidence will only be valid for this particular series. Fact is, some teams respond better to rest than others. A good bet in this series: Had things been the other way around (let's say Toronto was coming off a sweep and New Jersey played the six-game series), the layoff vs. non-layoff would have become a bit more important.

Because Toronto is a more free-flowing team, getting back into playoff hockey is likely more important than time off. And New Jersey, which takes a pretty straightforward approach, is probably more interested in the time off (though some would argue that's what the Devils did in the first round) than in heading back to work. Toronto, though, may have a more important wave to ride -- emotion, after their spirited victory in the Battle of Ontario.

Fellas? Some goals?

With just two goals between Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, Bobby Holik, Randy McKay and Petr Sykora, the Devils must find someone to score goals. And while there is pressure squarely on the shoulders of those listed, Claude Lemieux was even harder to find in the box scores -- unless you were counting penalty minutes. Lemieux failed to score on 18 shots against Florida and finished the series with an assist and 18 PIMs. Of course, he's made a living on his playoff reputation. But it hasn't yet happened in 2000.

Man of the Hour

The bigger the games were in Toronto's first-round series, the bigger "Stumpy" became. In a pivotal Game 5, Steve Thomas scored both Leafs goals -- the first tied it at 1-1 late in the third, and the second won the game in OT. Thomas's sixth goal of the series sparked a four-goal second period that preserved the win.

Man on the Spot

Martin Brodeur was spectacular against Pavel Bure and the Panthers, posting a playoff-leading (along with Chris Osgood) 1.50 GAA, and a .942 save percentage. But he has been less than such against the Maple Leafs this regular season. In his three games against Toronto, the New Jersey goaltender was 0-2-1 with a 3.89 GAA.

Sergei Berezin We love him because he makes Allen Iverson look picky
John Madden He'll be the fastest player on the ice
Scott Gomez Calder favorite was minus-1 with one goal in the first round and he sat out a Monday practice (flu)
Jay Pandolfo's luck A nondisplaced fracture of his left cheekbone forces him to wear a full face shield
Darcy Tucker We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Tampa Bay for letting us watch him in the playoffs
Refundable Prediction

Unless New Jersey is on the verge of sweeping Toronto (and we doubt that'll happen), you'll see at least twice as much information during the series on the Maple Leafs than you will about the Devils, who probably won't fill their own building for the playoffs.

Related information
Devils, Leafs meet in postseason for first time
Rested Devils waiting to pounce on Leafs
Series Breakdown: Devils-Maple Leafs
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