Miami Dolphins Schedule: 5 Most Interesting Storylines

The Miami Dolphins schedule was released last week, and it is riddled with interesting matchups. The Dolphins are getting two primetime games, along with several more that may be nationally televised.

Following their trade for star acquisitions, many view the Dolphins as playoff contenders. Thus, their schedule has five key storylines to look out for.

Tua vs. Herbert and Burrow

The Miami Dolphins hold matchups against the Bengals and Chargers, the former of which being on Thursday Night Football. These three teams have been tied together for over two years, when they were all competing for the number one pick and the rights to Joe Burrow, who went to Cincinnati.

Miami, of course, selected Tua Tagovailoa soon after, passing on Justin Herbert, who has looked stellar with the Chargers. In a “do or die” year for Tua, it’s important to see how his progress stacks up with the fellow quarterbacks of the 2020 draft.


Brian Flores Returns to Miami

Following the conclusion of Miami’s 2021 season, the Dolphins opted to fire Brian Flores. A combination of friction with personnel and a lack of production on the offensive side of the ball caused Miami to look in another direction. However, this was called into question when Flores filed a lawsuit against the team and the rest of the NFL.

Flores alleged several teams of racially motivated hiring and interviewing practices, and accused the Dolphins of offering him incentives to lose games in 2019. 

Unable to find a job in this cycle as a head coach, Flores joined the Steelers as a linebackers coach. Coaching Mike Tomlin’s star-studded defense, Flores will make his return to Miami on Sunday Night Football in Week 7.


Deshaun Watson in Hard Rock Stadium

The most prominent factor in Miami Dolphins schedule for early on is facing the Cleveland Browns. The constant rumors about a Deshaun Watson trade. It loomed over the team for a large portion of the year, and former coach Brian Flores refused to refute any potential trades. Thus, the pressure was on Tua Tagovailoa, with the constant worry of not having his job in the coming weeks.

Following the trade deadline, the weight seemed to be lifted from Tagovailoa’s shoulders. He performed significantly better and led Miami on a seven-game winning streak. 

With Miami’s new staff putting forth full confidence in Tagovailoa, they backed out of the Watson sweepstakes. The controversial quarterback was traded to the Cleveland Browns and leads one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.

Many looked at Watson, Jacoby Brissett, and Jakeem Grant, as three players that would be in Miami in 2022. However, all three are on Cleveland together and will come down to Hard Rock to face the Dolphins in Week 10.


Mike McDaniel Revenge Game

Following the firing of former coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins figured that they needed someone who could change the game on offense. Thus, they hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who comes from Kyle Shanahan’s elite outside zone scheme.

McDaniel took several staff members from San Francisco on his trip to the east coast. Namely, receivers coach Wes Welker (who played for the Dolphins) and tight ends coach Jon Embree. These three, along with other assistants, will go back to their old stomping grounds in Week 13. Miami will fly to San Francisco where McDaniel will meet his mentor, and potentially show him that he was ready to move on.


Beating the Bills

When Tom Brady left New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a power vacuum in the AFC East opened up. Each team made aggressive attempts to get better with hopes of taking over in the division. Miami and Buffalo, namely, have made vast changes to their teams over the last couple of years.

Now Miami fans (and Buffalo fans) circle their calendars every time the Miami Dolphins schedule drops.

However, the Bills have been much more successful in their approach. Making timely additions of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and other contributors have vaulted them to the top of the East. Miami, on the other hand, has been on the outside looking in.

This has largely been in part to the matchups between the two teams. Miami hasn’t beat the Bills since 2018, when Adam Gase as their head coach. It is up to Mike McDaniel and company to change this if they are to contend for a title in the coming years. They face the Bills in Weeks 3 and 15.  


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Tyler DeSena***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel  


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Can Jimmy Butler and the Heat go all the way?

The Eastern Conference Finals began Tuesday night with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. What started as a close game and the Celtics ahead, ended with complete second-half domination by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

Butler led Miami to a 118-107 victory thanks to his massive stat line. The Miami superstar ended Game 1 with 41 minutes played, 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. His offensive command was met with an equally paramount defensive showing. Butler recorded five steals and four blocks on Tuesday. The dominant play by Butler was complimented by the Celtics missing two of their most important players and Miami playing exceptional defense.

Looking back

Miami entered the third quarter down by eight points after Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refused to get down in the first half. It was a somewhat surprising effort by Boston, as they were without defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart (foot), and Al Horford (health and safety protocols).

Being down at the half sparked some crucial changes for Miami at halftime. The player-led adjustments in the locker room inspired an entirely new approach to the game in the third quarter. Miami’s defense stole the show, allowing their team to go on a 22-2 run to start the second half.  The Heat went on to score 39 third-quarter points, allowing Boston just 14.

Butler’s dominance continued into the fourth quarter when he blocked a huge three-point shot for Tatum, elevating the energy, and nearly sealing the game for the Heat. 

The Celtics almost came back in the fourth quarter. But in the end, Butler couldn’t be stopped, and Miami’s defense wasn’t going to back down.

Looking ahead

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place tonight on Miami’s home court. Miami is at a huge advantage due to the fact they have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo and the rest of the Heat’s core players have already shown they can contain Tatum and Brown. What will happen when the Celtics’ defensive star comes back? 

Marcus Smart is rumored to be returning to the lineup for Game 2. This will provide another challenge for Miami’s defense, and another limit for Miami’s offense at the hands of Smart’s unbelievable defensive abilities. Per Shams Charania, Al Horford’s status will be available for for Game 2.

If the Celtics want to keep their chances of advancement alive, they will have to win on Thursday to ensure they don’t get too far behind. One thing is for sure, Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t make it easy to come back.

***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Raina Rutschka***

  Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Jimmy Butler Channeling Dwyane Wade

As Jimmy Butler squared up at the free-throw line for his 17th and 18th attempts of the night, I wondered if the audience inside FTX Arena would shower him with roses. Miami was minutes away from a comeback win inspired by their marquee guy who had 40+ points in the playoffs for the fifth time as a Heatle.  


On the more taxing side of the court, Butler looked like a fighter jet gliding across different areas of the floor as he guarded his man or darted over to the paint and corners for help.  A possession earlier, JB tracked a left cut by Jaylen Brown starting at the top of the key and forced him to pick up his dribble by walling up with PJ Tucker. Next, Brown passed to Tatum at the strongside corner.  Butler then throttled towards Tatum’s airspace and spiked his triple into the stands.


I was about 20 feet from that play, standing at the start of the tunnel behind and next to some of the courtside seats.  The ball hadn’t made contact with a fan yet following the rejection, but the crowd erupted like Mount Vesuvius.  


It was the final stretch of Butler’s chef-d’oeuvre and he still looked possessed.  Similar to when an artist is spilling their soul into a microphone.  Like Jim Morrison when he sang “When the Music’s Over.”


The Heat had fallen into an eight-point hole heading into the intermission because they could barely hit a jumper from beyond the arc and were unable to stop Tatum from piercing the square on drives.  Aside from Butler, most of the production offensively came from the Heat’s sixth and seventh man, Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo.


The three of them attempted 27 shots in the first half.  The rest of their six teammates who saw action had combined for 12.  


At postgame press, Butler sounded like a made man when he said to reporters, “By any means necessary…” when asked if his third 40 burger of the playoffs had tickled his fancy.


Butler was at the free-throw line 15 seconds into the second half.  Whatever observations were mentioned in the locker room during the break seemed to have invigorated him and the other starters.  Like a running back smashing through the line of scrimmage and obstacles in their path to the endzone, Butler lowered his head and blew past or through defenders for a layup or trip to the line.


Miami opened the third quarter on a 22-2 run with a steady diet of off-ball screens and pick and roll.  When Butler caught a pass in space, he baited defenders multiple times into biting on his pump-fake, earning more opportunities at the line after absorbing contact.  Who else have Heat fans seen perform that distinct move?  I’ll offer a hint: he’s getting a statue someday in front of the arena.  


Boston lost track of Butler routinely because of his off-ball pressure.  The ten eyes on the court usually trail the ball handler.  On curls to the wing, #22 would receive a handoff and bolt to the interior while attracting a pair of help defenders, leaving spots on the perimeter open.  Or he’d create a gap by flipping an off-ball screen so a teammate could get a running start towards the handoff.  


On post-ups, Butler swiftly spun to his right leaving his opponent confused in quicksand.


In the last 24 minutes, he registered 8/11 shots from the field and 11/12 freebies.  


“Jimmy Buckets” walked off the court like a rockstar exiting the stage after turning the crowd delirious while he channeled his predecessor, the great Dwyane Wade.  My sincerest apologies to Denzel Washington because when I think of “Man on Fire,” Butler is the first name that comes to mind.



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5 takeaways from Panthers Game 1 loss to Lightning

SUNRISE – The Battle of Florida got revived for its 2022 edition on Tuesday night. 


The Panthers played host to the Lightning in Game 1 of round 2. Florida had the upper edge 5-on-5 but the ever deadly Lightning power play made Florida pay, again, tonight in Sunrsie. 


The Lightning took Game 1 by a score of 4-1.


Here’s the takeaways. 

Florida gave Tampa too many chances on the power play

Looking back at Game 1 of last year’s battle of Florida, the Lightning won a close game 5-4. Three of Tampa’s goals in that game came on the power play, with a 75% success rate.


Tonight, the Panthers once again gave the Lightning too many chances on the man advantage, with six opportunities. With so many chances, it was only a matter of time for Tampa to find the back of the net. 


On Tampa’s third power play of the night, Nikita Kucherov walked through the Panthers zone, made Aaron Ekblad bite on a fake to the outside, and froze Sergei Bobrovsky before feeding the puck to a wide open Corey Perry. Perry couldn’t have had an easier chance to score with the empty goal staring him in the face.


Tampa tied the game off the Perry goal.​​ The Lightning would finish the game with three power play goals while only scoring once 5-on-5.


In two straight Game 1’s against Florida, Tampa scored three times on the power play. They are too good up a man to have six chances in a game, they’ll make you pay.

Anthony Duclair gets his first career playoff goal

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have not been an easy place for Panthers forward Anthony Duclair. Entering tonight, he was goalless in 11 career playoff games. 


In Game 6 of the first round against the Capitals, Duclair was a healthy scratch. The Panthers went on to win that game and the series in overtime.


Duclair was back in the lineup for Game 1 against the Lightning, but the night didn’t get off to a good start for Duke. He took a high sticking penalty early in the first period with the game scoreless. Luckily for Duclair, Florida was able to kill off the penalty.


Duclair didn’t let the penalty affect him too much. With 5:59 left in the first, Jonathan Huberdeau sauced a pass from the boards to a streaking Duclair in front of the Lightning goal. Duclair fired the puck past Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead.


This was Duclair’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and it was a great time for him to get that burden off his back.   

Vasilevskiy slams the door, this could be a goaltending series

Before the series started, some would have said that this matchup called for plenty of goals. 


While the two sides have enough offensive firepower to scare pretty much every opponent in the NHL, the two Russian netminders had something to say about that.

Bobrovsky and Vasilveskiy kept this game close through two periods of play, with the score being 1-1 after 40.


 As the game reached the third period, both goalies had to stand on top of their crease as the shots continued to pile on. 


For Bobrovsky, he was getting peppered with shots when Florida was shorthanded. Eventually enough was enough and the pucks started going in.


On the other side of the ice, Andrei Vasilevskiy continuously prevented Florida’s onslaught of high quality chances go to waste as he turned into a brick wall, stopping everything in his way.


Tonight both goaltenders finished with over 30 saves in the game, and with out them, the score line could have been very different.  Vasilevskiy only gave up one goal on 34 shots, while Bobrovsky saved 32, only conceding one 5-on-5 goal.


Tampa’s goalie showed why he has two Stanley Cups tonight. He’s one of the best in the world and the Panthers are going to have to keep testing him if they want to try and crack the code.

No power play, no fun

It’s like reading the same book twenty times, the power play is not getting any better.


Florida was 0/18 in round one on the power play, tonight Florida was 0/3 on the man advantage, making their postseason record 0/21. 


When the game was tied at 1-1 and when the Panthers were down 2-1, the chances they had on the power play could have changed the game. However, once again, the Panthers could not find twine on the man advantage.


Tampa scored three times tonight on their six chances; Florida will lose the series if they don’t figure out their power play. 

Florida loses another Game 1 

Even with home ice, Florida can’t win their opening playoff games.


Last year they lost Game 1 to Tampa. This year they dropped Game 1 to Washington, also on home ice. 

Tonight was  no different, as the Panthers once again went down 0-1 in a series, at home. The last time Florida won a Game 1 was in 1997, when they beat the New York Rangers. Florida didn’t win a game after that in the series.  


Florida will have to advance to the next round if they want to test their luck again in a Game 1, but until then, they need to be ready for Game 2 on Thursday night. 

Battle of Florida Round 2: Series Preview

For the first time in 26 years, the Panthers are on to the second round. After a hard fought series with the Washington Capitals, the road only gets tougher for the cats. The good news is that they finally got over the mental hurdle of winning a playoff series. Now, they must get over another mental hurdle: the battle of Florida.

Indeed, it is that the defending champs are waiting on the other side.

The battle of Florida, Panthers vs Lightning round two, commences this week. Both teams have a tremendous amount to prove in what will almost certainly be the premier matchup of the second round. Here’s how the teams match up.

Forward Battle

If there’s anyone out there who is unfamiliar with the embarrassment of riches the Lightning possess at forward, know this: they’re really good. Steven Stamkos is in the midst of a resurgent season in which he’s tallied a career high in points. 2019 MVP Nikita Kucherov has struggled with injuries this season, but had an impressive first round of the playoffs. Scoring wingers Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, and Alex Killorn round out an experienced and talented top six.

That list even excludes Brayden Point, who may be the player the Panthers struggle to contain the most. The speedy 26 year old will likely be sidelined for the first few games with a lower body injury.

As scary as that group looks on paper, the Panthers still likely have the edge in he forward department. Many of Tampa’s forwards are on the wrong side of 30 and starting to decline. They also lost much of their bottom six depth last offseason. While they did a decent job replacing much of it, this is a watered down version of the team they lost to last year.

The biggest hurdle for the Panthers will be limiting the Tampa power play. In last year’s battle of Florida, the lightning went 8/20 (40%) on the power play. That was the Panthers’ Achilles heel in that series. Tampa’s chemistry on the man advantage kept Florida on their toes throughout.

To mitigate their scoring chances on the power play, the focus for the Panthers should be clogging up the middle of the ice. It is vital they don’t overreact to a Stamkos or Kucherov slap shot from the outside, as that will open up passes to the slot area. As long as they stay disciplined on the penalty kill, the Panthers have the edge in the forward department.

Defense Corps

Without a doubt, the Lightning have the best defenseman in this series, and possibly the league, Victor Hedman. The 2018 Norris Trophy winner amassed 85 points (20 G 65 A) this past season, the highest of his career, while also playing shutdown defense. The panthers will notice his presence on the ice will will need to constantly account for it.

Their number two and three defensemen, Ryan Mcdonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, do have holes. They’re incredibly talented and reliable players in their own right, but they are slow footed. It does open some opportunities for the Panthers to get their speedy players some scoring chances against the two of them.

Their other three defensemen are solid, but nothing special. Jan Rutta, Cal Foote, and Zach Bogosian have all had their moments, but it would be unreasonable to expect for them to slow down the elite offense Florida boasts. They also do not offer enough offensively to counter their defensive limitations. It is certainly a step down from the defensive depth they saw against Washington, and it would behoove Florida to take advantage of that.

Goaltending For The Battle of Florida

The battle in net may be the most obvious advantage Tampa has in this series. Sergei Bobrovsky has been excellent for the Panthers thus far, but Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the league’s best goaltender for the past four years. He looked mortal in their first round series against Toronto, but shut the door in their closeout game seven.

On the series, Vasilevskiy said “many goals were scored because I couldn’t see anything. I’m pretty sure that was the game plan for them, to get in front.”

Screens are a goalie’s worst nightmare, regardless of their skill level. That needs to be an adjustment the Panthers make in this series. The panthers love passing to get clean looks at the net, but Vasy is too big and too mobile for that to be a viable primary scoring option. The goals in this series need to be dirty and gritty in front of the net goals. Easier said than done of course, but the Panthers are no strangers to finding different ways to score.

Final Prediction

This will likely be the best series of the second round, and I fully expect it to go the distance. Whoever comes out of this series will likely be the favorite to make it to the cup final. The Panthers improved greatly after last year’s defeat, and are ready to win at all costs. Tampa knows how to handle any situation they find themselves in, but they will feel the absences from players who moved on in the offseason. In this year’s battle of Florida, it will be the Florida Panthers in seven games.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Samuel Schettrit***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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5 Keys to Panthers-Lightning series

One year after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, the Florida Panthers are back, looking for revenge in the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 


The Battle of Florida part 2 is here, can the Panthers come out on top?

Here are my five keys to the Panthers-Lightning series.

Florida needs to score on the power play 

I’m not sure what was a more impressive feat in the first round, the fact that the Panthers went 0/18 on the power play, or how they were able to win the series in six games without scoring a single power play goal.


Florida was the only team in the first round to not score a goal, with the other 15 teams scoring at least two goals on the man advantage. 


As the Panthers progress through the playoffs, if they continue to strike out on the man advantage, their opponents aren’t going to let them hang around in games like the Capitals did.


Tampa had the 11th ranked penalty kill in the regular season, finishing the year at 80.56%. This is just slightly better than Florida’s first round opponent, the Washington Capitals, who were 12th in the league with an  80.44% pk. 


This matchup against Tampa should be a tight one, so finishing your power play chances will be huge in a best-of-seven series. 

Don’t give the Lightning too many chances on the man advantage 

Looking back at the 2021 first round series between these two sides, it was a power play goal fest.


In Game 1, Tampa won a tight one 5-4. They went 3/4 on the power play in that game.


In the series, the Lightning went 8/20 on the power play, scoring two or more PP goals in fifty percent of the games. 


Between Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov, there are plenty of Lightning players who can put the puck in the net on the power play.


The Lightning know how to use the power play to their advantage. Florida needs to play clean hockey to try and limit the amount of times Tampa gets looks on the power play.  

Florida needs another huge series from Sergei Bobrovsky

The two standout Panthers from round 1 were Carter Verhaeghe and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. In six games against Washignton, Bobrovsky had a .906 save percentage with a 2.79 GAA. He held the net the entire series and kept Florida in games with his great play.


Looking at last year’s postseason matchup against the Lightning, Florida’s goalie situation was anything but sure. The Panthers started three different goalies in their six games against Tampa; Bobrovsky, Chris Dreidger and Spencer Knight. Bobrovsky had a rough go against the Lightning, finishing the series with a .841 save percentage and 5.33 GAA in three games.


So far in this playoff run, Bobrovsky has looked like his former two-time Vezina winner self, not the guy who lost his job multiple times in the playoffs.


It’s not going to be an easy time trying to shut the door on guys like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Co. but if Bobrovsky can play like he did in round 1, he’s going to help his team a lot this series. 

Tampa is going to have to get by without Brayden Point

When I was watching Tampa take the ice last May, the one player who I thought looked the most lethal on the Lightning offense was Brayden Point. Between his quick skating, and elusive slot shot on the power play, Point is a player who demands respect every time he touches the ice.


As of now, Point is listed as “highly doubtful” for Game 1, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Point has not been ruled out of the series, however he is supposed to be day-to-day following Game 1. 


Point was injured in Saturday night’s Game 7 against Toronto with an apparent right leg injury. 


With the uncertainty revolving around their superstar forward’s availability for the series, the Lightning forwards are going to have some big skates to fill as the 26-year-old Point is above a PPG in the playoffs, with 77 points in 74 games over his career.


The Lightning are not a single superstar team, if anything they have four to five superstars on their roster, but anytime without Brayden Point is a huge loss for Tampa. 

Aaron Ekblad finally gets a crack at Tampa, can he be the difference?

Looking at the 2021 edition of the Battle of Florida and comparing it to the 2022 edition is like night and day.


Florida is a lot stronger than their 2021 team, with guys like Sam Reinhart, Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and Anton Lundell all getting their first taste of Panthers-Lightning playoff hockey. 


One guy who was on the team last season but was unable to play in the postseason was Panthers star defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was out with an injury. 


This time, Ekblad is ready to go, and he will be a much needed weapon on Florida’s blueline this series. 


The Panthers missed Ekblad’s PK skill, his offensive abilities and his sound defensive play last year against Tampa. When Ekblad is on the backend he eats up most of the minutes and the rest of the defensive unit follows his lead. A healthy Ekblad may have helped Florida prolong last year’s series. Now, can he help them win it?

Marlins fans can be part of the solution but are part of the problem

It’s amazing to look back and realize that South Florida has had Major League Baseball in its backyard for 30 years.

30 seasons, four ownership regimes, three memorable playoff appearances, and two championships.

One of those championships was being celebrated this past weekend in a series against the Milwaukee Brewers, managed by the very man who scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

The total combined attendance numbers on Saturday and Sunday were 24,670. To put that in context, the Marlins’ 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on April 30 had 29,010 fans in attendance, and that was because it was University of Miami theme night.

To further put it into context, the Tampa Bay Rays, who have spent their entire existence playing in an oversized Costco warehouse adjacent to Tampa, saw a higher attendance (20,832) on Sunday.

The 1997 team deserved better. The current team deserves better. The ballpark is 10 years old and is constantly being upgraded. The Marlins are the only team in baseball that has the players literally greet you at the gate. Jazz Chisholm is not just becoming a star but the envy of fans everywhere. Craig Mish said on his podcast that Chisholm might be a bigger star outside of Miami than in Miami and he might be right.

At some point, the issue of the fans and their constant lack of support must be brought up. No team in baseball is consistently successful without the support of fans . The fans here want the team to spend and succeed despite not going to the games and supporting that effort. Nobody wants to say it, but in South Florida, the fans are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution.

Is South Florida the only market in which the team must literally earn their fans by winning? The Florida Panthers had to win the Presidents Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, to get full crowds to their games.

Do the Marlins need to make the playoffs first for them to stop playing in empty stadiums? All the complaints one would hear about why nobody goes — the team is not competitive, the owner is cheap — are not unique to Miami, even if the fans like to think they are.

The Colorado Rockies franchise started the same year as the Marlins did. Over that time the have only been in the playoffs five times and in the World Series once. The owner is extremely unpopular and at times fans clamored for a change in ownership. Nolan Arenado, the Rockies’ biggest star since Todd Helton, demanded a trade a year after signing a big extension because of his frustration with the front office.

Do you think anyone in Denver trusts the Rockies’ front office? They signed Kris Bryant, a former MVP coming off another All-Star appearance, to a seven-year, $182 million contract. The move dumbfounded everyone. Why trade away one All-Star third baseman signaling a rebuild just to overspend for another in free agency. Rather than be excited, fans were rightfully confused.

Yet despite all that, the lowest attended game at Coors Field this season was 20,403 on a cold Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. To get that number in Miami, the dogs need to be let in and Sebastian the Ibis needs to throw out the first pitch.

Not being good enough isn’t a worthy excuse to not show up either. The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming off their worst season ever, with practically the same roster, and the only games that saw sub-10,000 attendance were when the Marlins were in town. And this isn’t some state of the art sports complex that alone attracts fans. It’s more than twice the age of LoanDepot Park and smells like a crayon box when the roof is closed. The Diamondbacks wanted to make the county pay for upgrades and were rumored to move to Las Vegas before the Oakland Athletics. And yet they still have better attendance numbers than a Marlins team that signed the World Series MVP in Cuban slugger Jorge Soler and are trying to win.

Want to talk about a lack of trust? Who at this point trusts the Cincinnati Reds? They tore down half of their roster. Phil Castellini, the team president and son of the owner, alienated his fans before the start of the home opener. Despite all of that, in a ballpark with 5,000 more seats, the Reds have seen more home games with 20,000+ fans (5) than the Marlins (2) this season. The last place Reds have had only two games this year with less than 10,000 fans — which has been a constant in Miami since they stopped fudging the attendance numbers.

Are the fans here still holding the past tear downs against the franchise? The first time led to a second World Series in five years. The Marlins instantly improved on offense with the second fire sale. The third rebuild led them to having their most talented outfield ever, and the most recent rebuild is being played out right before your eyes. It’s time to stop holding the grudge.

Miami has the reputation of being an unworthy sports town and in baseball, it’s one that has been earned by both franchise and fans. It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve seen the energy that emanates from a full crowd in Miami. The two World Series are legendary. The World Baseball Classic was always at it’s best in Miami than anywhere else. The All-Star Game didn’t disappoint either. Even 2012 had good crowds, until the team collapsed in the summer.

Marlins fans need to drop the excuses and start supporting the team at the ballpark because they won’t reach your expectations without you.

Mateo’s Hoops Diary: Down Goes Philly

True to form, Doc Rivers’ team got schooled in their building.  The first signs of the Philadelphia unfaithful turning on the team were midway through the third quarter as they booed the embarrassment inflicted on their eyes. 


Embiid hit the ground more than a soldier trying to evade gunfire.   The Beard looked like he was planning his postgame affairs.  And Rivers’ bald head was the only bright spot for Philly in Game 6.


With 9:13 left before the end, ESPN’s cameras caught a peek into the 76ers’ huddle.  Doc pleaded to his group, “Fight for this! Come on, guys. Fight for this!”  But his group looked as deflated as the Hindenburg.


Jimmy Butler– the one who slipped through their fingers-  was merciless leading his outfit and attacking the interior on cuts and torching Philly’s drop coverage in the midrange. With a minute left, #22 waved goodbye to the crowd as Miami inched closer to its eighth conference finals trip since 2005.


As expected, one of the excuses cited by the 76ers at post Game 6 press was that this version of their team had not been together for much time. James Harden said, “We tried to build a championship contender so fast, which I still think we are, we’re just missing a few pieces, but other than that you try to go for it right away…”


Sure, by default, their second-best player was not integrated into the rotations during training camp and had to learn the playbook at an advanced pace.  It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference because when matters went sideways, Harden showed who he is at those times, too small for the moment.


This was the 10th time in the Beard’s career that he’s had zero free throw attempts in a playoff game indicating that his abilities as an escape artist are on par with Harry Houdini.


 The 76ers are no closer to winning a title than when Embiid and Ben Simmons first started sharing the court in 2017. This futile effort by their big-man suiting up four games might do the trick in convincing supporters or even ownership of that reality.  But what can’t be unremembered is that Embiid is a super freak who was used up by his club.  His face was battered, his thumb on his shooting hand was compromised and he was finessed into thinking this was worthwhile.


Before the 76ers left Miami, I asked Embiid at post Game 5 press about how much a spiked ball to the face deterred his interest in bludgeoning the rim.  He said, “I don’t know.  I’m just trying my best, honestly.”


Responding to another reporter, Embiid said he’d be called soft if he didn’t play, or if he did, they say he performed poorly.  Some might knock him for worrying about the media, but he’s human and words can be sharper than a spear.  


Right on cue, Charles Barkley claimed Embiid was ineffective because he was distracted by not winning the MVP award.  For reasons I don’t understand, people listen to Barkley give his drivel on the game when all he does is dumb down the audience.  If only he had a clue into how much Embiid cares.  


 Joel’s honest answers further enlightened my understanding of him as a warrior.  It made me uncomfortable to watch him squirm on the ground in pain as he was attended by his team. Then he got up.  And he still languished in the second half of Game 5.


Rivers did not consider sitting his best man the rest of that night following the close call.  I know because I asked him and sternly said no.


In the second half of Philly’s downfall, the 76ers couldn’t stop Miami from getting two feet in the paint, where Miami made 15/21 baskets.  The home team was outscored 50-42 in the final 24 minutes.


The playoffs never fail to show the public which teams are for real and who thought they were.  Miami’s got next with the winner of the Boston-Milwaukee series that’s 3-2 in favor of the champs.  If only Philly could have had more to say about it. 



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What’s Wrong with the Panthers’ Special Teams?

The Florida Panthers are in a dogfight of a first round. Currently up 3-2 in the series, the games have been far more competitive than many expected. The strange thing, however, is that the Panthers are dominating Washington at even strength. So far in the series, the Panthers are outscoring the capitals 15-8 at even strength. The only thing keeping the series close thus far has been the struggles of the Panthers’ special teams.

Through the first five games of the series, the Panthers are 0-16 (not a typo) on the power play. Yes, the leagues number five power play on the year has yet to score a goal on SIXTEEN tries. Doing some quick math, that equates to a conversion rate of roughly 0 percent.

By Contrast, the Washington Capitals have scored on six of their 20 chances for a success rate of 30 percent. That number is significantly higher than their regular season average of 18.8 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the Panthers performance on special teams has made winning these games significantly harder. The Panthers need to flip their special teams play around if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Power Play Woes

As a hockey fan, I think a disproportionate amount of hockey discourse centers around teams or players being cursed. It acts as a scapegoat for inexplicable playoff performances or uncanny strings of bad luck. Most of the time, its just popular pundits ignoring the obvious or fans living in denial as to why their team lost.

With that being said, I don’t think I’ve seen evidence of a curse as compelling as this one.

I’m only half joking, of course, but this is getting absurd. The Panthers power play struggled early on in the year, but finished as the fifth best in the league. The team was so red hot towards the end of the year they sustained a league best power play percentage of 30.9 percent since February.

And all of a sudden, it vanished.

There are a few moving parts that could explain this. The biggest adjustment for the team has been trying to reincorporate Aaron Ekblad back on the first power play unit. The team found a groove with the five forward power play, and it looks to be a struggle trying to reinstall Ekblad as the quarterback.

Whether it has more to do with Ekblad shaking off some rust coming off the injury or the lack of chemistry with a group that has never played together before, there is simply not enough time to figure it out now. When deployed the five forward power play has generated the most pressure for the Panthers this postseason. The plan should be to stick with that for now and figure out the Ekblad piece over the summer.

Besides that, better results will just come down to getting some more puck luck and playing with less fear. The Panthers are clearly the more talented team. Because of that, high event hockey plays to their advantage. Even if they give up more shorthanded chances, the talent on the roster affords them that luxury. If they play more aggressively and with more movement, more goals will follow.

Penalty kill struggles

To their credit, the Panthers have done an excellent job limiting Alexander Ovechkin’s impact on the power play. They have overcommitted to his one timer and forced him to pass out of his usual spots. He has only scored one power play goal all series, and it came on a broken play.

Obviously, overcommitting to one player opens up plenty of other options for the opponent, and the capitals are taking advantage of that. The main benefactor of this strategy has been T.J. Oshie. Oshie has scored four power play goals this series. The connection between Oshie and quarterback John Carlson has been superb. Oshie tipping and redirecting Carlson’s soft shots has made the Panthers penalty kill look silly all series.

As seen below, the Panthers pressure Ovechkin out of the zone, but some quick puck movement leads to a Capitals goal.

Fixing this one will be tricky. Washington is fortunate enough to have the greatest shooter of our lifetimes on their team and three guys (Carlson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov) who excel at getting him the puck. Overcommitting to him is the right call, but the defense relaxes too much when the puck isn’t in the vicinity of the great 8.

Washington does have a fatal flaw, however, and that is predictability. Their M.O. has John Carlson setting the table for everything and everybody else at the top of the zone. Florida can counter this by putting pressure on the slow footed Carlson and make him move the puck before he is ready.

Look how much space the Panthers give Carlson to take the shot in the clip below. The Capitals want to feed him at the point, and the Panthers let it happen, which leads to a goal.

It may seem counter intuitive to play aggressively that high in the zone when shorthanded, but Carlson has destroyed the conservative approach. Carlson may still be an excellent power play QB, is not the player he used to be physically. The Panthers have excellent speed and need to use that to their advantage here. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive. The Capitals are too experienced for the Panthers to be playing catch up with.

Overall, the Panthers have shown some good and some bad in this first round matchup. They’ve been the better team 5v5, but they’ve also made this series much harder than it needed to be. Hopefully it will serve as a learning experience for them and they can make the adjustments to win this round and more rounds going forward. Only time will tell.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Samuel Schettrit***


Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel


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Florida Panthers head into Game 5 tied 2-2 despite visible concerns in the series

With the series tied at 2-2, Florida still has visible issues that could be the difference of winning or losing this series


Finishing the regular season atop the league standings had many onlookers heavily favoring the Florida Panthers in their first round matchup against the Washington Capitals. 


Washington, who came off of a Stanley Cup win in 2018, was not going to let the Panthers walk all over them in this series. 


From the moment the puck dropped in Game 1, the Capitals had their foot on the gas and competed with the Panthers, outclassing them in many aspects of the game, including goalscoring. 


After splitting the first two games in Sunrise, Washington returned home to the nation’s capital for Game 3. The Capitals put on a clinic, demolishing the Panthers 6-1 and taking a 2-1 series lead.


Heading into Monday night’s Game 4, the Panthers were on the brink of facing a 3-1 series deficit if they couldn’t steal a road game back from the Capitals,


On Monday, the game plan looked better than any other game in the series. Florida was getting pucks in deep, countering Washington’s tight gaps in the neutral zone and creating traffic around the Capital’s goal.


Despite dominating Washington in shots, faceoff percentage and scoring chances, the Panthers found themselves looking for a goal with under three minutes to play in the third. 


Interim head coach Andrew Brunette pulled goaltender Sergei Bobrvosky, and the Cats pushed for the tying goal. With 2:04 left in regulation, Sam Reinhart corralled a puck from mid air, put it in front of him and buried his first-career NHL playoff goal, sending the game to overtime.

In OT, the “Comeback Cats” prevailed when Carter Verhaeghe scored his second goal of the game, sending the series back to Sunrise tied at 2-2.


That’s how the Panthers found themselves in a tied series heading into Wednesday night’s Game 5 at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.


It’s a best-of-three series now, but the Cats have not played the greatest team hockey to this point. There are major concerns that could have been the difference between this series being 2-2 and the Panthers having a lead going into Game 5.


If Florida fixes these problems, it’s their series to take.

0 power play goals cannot happen

When you look at the Panthers’ lineup on paper, the first thing you’ll think of is explosive offensive talent. They have seven players in the lineup with at least 20 goals from the regular season. The team scored a league high 4.11 goals a game and had more goals (337) than any other team in the league. 


You’d think the best scoring team in the league would take advantage of their opportunities on the powerplay, right? 


Through the first four games of the series, the Panthers are 0/13 on the powerplay, while the Capitals are 5/17, 29.4%. 


Every team in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs have scored at least 2 power play goals so far in the first round, except for Florida. 


When the games are close and you fail to capitalize on power play chances, your opponent gets all the momentum from the kill, while your power play unit can’t buy a goal.


Florida is lucky that they aren’t out of the series by now with a 0% power play. 


In Game 4, the adjustments seemed to have been made for the power play setup. The puck  was moving faster, guys were opening themselves up in shooting lanes, and the players were carrying the puck up and down the wall more rather than being stationary which is common for the Panthers power play.  


The best power play setup I saw in Game 4 was when they moved Aleksander Barkov away from the point and had him working alongside the right end board. With his size, passing ability and skill with the puck, he is way more efficient closer to goal than at the top of the point. Stick to that sort of setup and movement and the puck will find the back of the net. 


Aleksander Barkov has not shown his usual explosiveness with the puck

When he is on his game, there’s not many better players on the planet than Aleksander Barkov. In this series however, the captain has not looked like his usual self offensively. The stat sheet has him with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), which is the same as Jonathan Huberdeau. While the pair have the same points, Huberdeau has been more visible in this series.


No question both guys could be better considering how good they were in the regular season, but it’s the playoffs and Barkov hasn’t had the jump you’d expect of a guy who had 39 goals and 88 points in 67 games this season. With Huberdeau, I’ve seen him carry the puck in, hit open guys and push the Caps defense back pretty frequently this series. Barkov, not so much. 


Defensively, the back checking, corner battles and getting in lanes are all still there.  It’s the explosive punch that hasn’t been awakened yet in the series. Barkov is so good with the puck on his stick, it’s hard for the opponent to bounce him off it when he gets going.


Being more selfish, dropping the shoulder and driving the net, testing Washington’s goalie, that’s what Barkov needs to do because he’s a star player and star players dominating win you a series. 


Barkov needs to take over the game; when that happens, Washington will have a 6’3, 215 pound machine coming at them.

Anthony Duclair is losing ice time, fast

Duclair has been one of the best stories of this Panther team. After bouncing around the league, the 26-year-old’s sixth NHL team would be the one where he found a home, in Sunrise. 


Duclair had a career-high 31 goals this season, shattering his previous best of 23.


Unfortunately for him, his scoring touch has not carried over to the postseason. Duclair is goalless through four games and has seen his ice time rapidly drop. 


In Game 1, Duclair had 14:09 of total on ice time. Since then it has progressively decreased, with Duke only seeing the ice for 9:48. 


In six games last postseason against Tampa, Duclair went pointless, while seeing his ice time dwindle to around the 10 minute mark then too. 


I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing for Duke, but he’s such an offensively skilled player and him putting the puck in the net would be a huge help for the Panthers if they want to advance to the second round.

Can they fix it?

This isn’t the regular season, so you don’t have 82 games, hundreds of practices/skates to get everything in order. The Playoffs is where the champions are separated from the rest. If all three of these concerns can be fixed, great, but that’s wishful thinking as we are just hours away from a decisive Game 5. I think if at least one of these areas of concern can be addressed tonight, the Panthers will have a better chance of winning the series.