Every playoff matchup will receive a once-over prior to puck drop this week, including Bourne’s prediction, explanation and final thought on each. He does not hate your team. He does not love your team. He is just talking hockey.

Previously: #3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #2 Chicago Blackhawks


#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils

Season matchup: Tied with two wins apiece

Who wins the series: Devils

How many games: Six

Please do explain:

I’ll do my best.

The Florida Panthers aren’t going into the playoffs all starry-eyed, with the “we’ve never been here before” attitude one might expect. The organization hasn’t been there in a decade, sure, but 15 of the players on their roster have. There are plenty of Cup rings to go around.

Still, they’re not your prototypical division-winning scary three-seed – the six seed they’re playing, New Jersey, had a full eight more points than them in the regular season. Florida was fourth-last in the NHL in goals-per-game this year. Their PK was 25th. They were 15th in the NHL in shots-for-per-game, 18th in shots-allowed-per. So, when you think of a home ice playoff team, you don’t exactly think of them.

Still, I think they’re going to be a pain in the ass for the Devils, a team you’d give the nod to when it comes to a number of categories. Say, penalty kill (1st in NHL), shots-allowed-per-game (2nd in NHL), goaltending, and top-end offensive talent (Parise and Kovalchuk are okay).

I think they’ll be a hassle for New Jersey because of good ‘ol Bill Simmons logic: I think they’re the ultimate “nobody believed in us” team (with just cause). They’re a rag-tag group, assembled from every team around the League’s free agents, and they did something great this year. They have pride now, they’ve bonded, they have an “us.” So I don’t think they’re going to roll over.

But after all those kind words of praise….they’re going to lose to the better team.

“Heart” is adorable (Rudy!), but if it made you that much better, Rudy would’ve started.

What I’m excited to find out:

If one of the Panthers tenders can rise up and take the role of starter.

I actually like this roster – I picked them in pre-season to make playoffs – but I worry about the crease. They have like, three lines of second line players, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but if you’re goalie is a little too porous, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Final thought:

One of two things is going to happen – this series is going to go seven games, go to overtime a bunch, and be thrilling….or guys like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Marty Brodeur will play like the stars they are, and put the Panthers to bed early. (I know I picked six games – somewhere in the middle seemed like a safe bet.)