Why We Should Care About Sports

 

Given we are in the midst of a global pandemic, you make ask yourself – why should I care about sports?

A simple trip to the grocery store can induce crippling anxiety.

The news is a constant cycle of hopelessness.

Leadership stateside, is let’s just say questionable.

We’ll debate politics when (if) this is all over during 2020, already one of the worst years in recent memory.

For now it come down to waiting desperately in seclusion.

Hopefully.

 

“Adapt or die” has never held more significance.

That is why a wholesome distraction such as sports is therapeutic.

With the global news consumed by COVID-19 the world turns to outlets such as ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader” for some normalcy.

We should be enjoying a different kind of March Madness right now.

Opening Day in Major League Baseball.

Meaningful NBA and NHL games as the Heat and Panthers fight for postseason position.

The Miami Hurricanes baseball team was real good.

All now an illusion, a mirage when seems as distant as when you could say hello to your neighbor.

And shake their hand.

The NFL Draft is moving ahead as planned, sort of.

 

It will happen in a way we have never seen before.

We can’t wait!

Fill out your mock drafts until your hearts are content.

Even if they are unconventional, or irrational.

Enjoy a newfound camaraderie with fellow sports fans.

Maybe even reach out to your favorite athletes and say hi.

 

The Five Reasons network is committed to bring sports fans even more content during this time.

Subscribe to the 5 on the Floor Miami Heat podcast here.

For the latest Miami Dolphins the 3 Yards Per Carry podcast has you covered, subscribe here.

Five Rings Canes is rolling out new content regularly, you can find them here.

We also have a YouTube channel where we discuss all things in the world of sports and beyond.

What Happened to the Florida Panthers?

Fans, media, and critics alike are all wondering – what happened to the Florida Panthers?

After a scorching end to the first half of the NHL season, the Panthers have once again collapsed when it counts.

Florida has dropped three straight and five of six heading into a must win against Boston Thursday.

This season was poised to be one of fulfilled hope, with a new coach and goaltender to lead the way.

Instead, the losses are piling up.

 

As are the teams in front of them for the final Eastern Conference wildcard spot.

So, how did we get here?

Offensive Offense

The Panthers managed to get to the All-Star break without being held scoreless in a single game.

In the 17 games since, Florida has been blanked three times.

The Panthers still rank in the top five league wide in goals per game and overall, but the luster is fading.

Florida averages 3.35 goals per game on the season but have been held to three or fewer goals 12 times since the break.

The power play is slowly creeping down the rankings and will be out of the top 10 soon if this trend continues.

Florida has not tallied with the man advantage (0-for-7) on their current three game slide.

The trade of Vincent Trocheck at the end of February was supposed to shake things up.

Except the two main players that came over in the deal, Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark, have yet to make an impact.

The two forwards have combined for a single point – an assist by Haula – in the four games since the deal and are a combined -4.

On the top line, Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have crashed to Earth after a strong first half.

Huberdeau and Barkov have combined for a mere three assists over the last five games.

Mike Hoffman has been one of the lone bright spots recently with seven points over that span, the other forwards need to step up.

No Help From Defense Either

While the offense is not doing the squad any favors the play on the blue line has been abysmal.

Unforced turnovers, failing to maintain possession at the line, and costly mental errors have all contributed.

Florida is 29th in the NHL allowing 3.33 goals per game and have only outscored their opponents by one goal total this season.

The penalty kill (21st) has been an issue in the second half and the Panthers rank 23rd in shots allowed per game.

Despite all this the Panthers are just five points out of the wild card entering Thursday’s game versus Boston.

 

It will take a monumental effort for the Panthers to defeat the Eastern Conference leading Bruins, who have won three straight and eight of ten games.

The Panthers will have one more home game on this five game stand, Saturday against Montreal.

Roberto Luongo will have his jersey lifted to the rafters this weekend, the first Panther to earn that honor.

Hopefully his former team will show some inspiration this week and right the ship before it is too late.

 

 

Trocheck Trade Exemplifies State of Florida Panthers

The trade of forward Vincent Trocheck by the Florida Panthers this week exemplifies the current state of the franchise.

After six full seasons in Sunrise, Trocheck was sent to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday at the NHL trade deadline.

 

In year seven with the Panthers, Trocheck battled injuries and inconsistency throughout the first half.

After playing a full 82 games in both 2016 and 2017, injuries stalled Trocheck in the last two campaigns.

Trocheck appeared in 55 games for the Panthers prior to the deal, the same number he played all of last year.

He leaves with 10 goals and 16 assists, which are well below his career averages.

Trocheck had a career high 31 goals in 2017 and averaged over 26 goals per season from 2015 to 2017.

His uneven performance ultimately made him a casualty of a much needed roster shuffle.

Florida acquired forwards Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and Eetu Luostarinen along with defenseman Chase Priskie.

Before Carolina, Haula spent his first four years in Minnesota before joining Vegas for the last two seasons.

He appeared in 41 games for Carolina this year, tallying 12 goals and 10 assists. Haula should have an opportunity on the second and third forward lines, and has 44 games of postseason experience on his resume.

 

Wallmark was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NHL Draft by Carolina, the 24-year old speedy forward from Sweden has nice upside.

He appeared in 60 games for Carolina prior to the trade, with 11 goals and 12 assists so far. Wallmark can also contribute across multiple lines and along with Haula add solid depth to the forward group.

Luostarinen and Priskie are expected to report to the Springfield Thunderbirds, their AHL affiliate. Priskie is from Pembroke Pines and grew up a huge Florida Panthers fan, a nice story to say the least he gets a chance to play for his hometown team.

While these additions are solid on the surface, when four players are traded for one, typically the one is the bell of the ball.

In this case, Florida made the move while the underperforming Trocheck still held value.

Trocheck symbolized the Panthers season thus far, full of excitement and potential, while somehow far away from complete realization of it.

On paper the Panthers should be more than a fringe playoff contender, they have the components to make a legit run.

Something has been missing since the All-Star break, and changes were needed.

Trocheck was good enough to command a decent haul in return.

Yet not quite on the level where he would not become expendable.

General Manager Dale Tallon had to give Coach Joel Quenneville some flexibility and shake the roster up.

The core was too top heavy and has underproduced, perhaps some new faces will bring some energy for one last playoff push.

 

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville focuses on the positives from opening-night loss to Lightning. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports)

A rough patch or just more of the same?

The Florida Panthers find themselves in a very familiar place: on the outside looking in. At 29-20-6 the Panthers find themselves 2 points back of the third playoff spot for the Atlantic division and 5 points behind for a wildcard spot.
In most cases, you might be okay with this as a Panthers fan. In years of Panthers past, you could even say you’d be satisfied. With 27 games left, the Panthers control their own destiny to get back in to the playoffs.

That may be the root of the problem.

This year is suppose to be different. This was the year everything was suppose to change. For the most part, they have. The Panthers used most of their cap room in the off-season. They signed the biggest goalie free agent. They got into a room with Artemi Panarin. They hired arguably one of the five best coaches in NHL history in Joel Quenneville. The pieces were filled to sorrowing the core, a problem they’ve needed to fix for years. The winning culture was in place.

For the first half of the season, we saw the changes. The value signings the Panthers made were paying dividends. Noel Acciari has 18 goals. Brett Connolly has 17. Daddanov has 23. This led to early success, for the most part of the first half of the season, the Panthers held or were within 4 points of a playoff spot. Going into the all-star break, the Panthers were playing their best hockey, winning 6 straight games. Going into the break, the Panthers were 4 points up on Toronto for third in the Atlantic and only trailed Tampa by a point.

Due to the All-Star break and the scheduled bye week, the Panthers went 10+ days without playing a game after the winning streak.

Since the All Star break, it has been a much different start. The Panthers are 1-4-1 and have been out scored 22-10 in that time span. They’ve lost about 5 points in the wild card race and 6 in the division. Though, they still have a game in hand so we’ll call it 4. 

With the trade deadline coming up, you can almost expect the Panthers will be buyers. Dale Tallon will be aggressive to make sure this team gets in. The Panthers are starved for upgrading their defensive line. They have assets, picks and prospects to try to swing a deal. Or they may use their NHL talent on the offensive side of the puck to get a defensive. Whatever way they do it, they need to make a move.

If the 2019-2020 Panthers want to separate themselves from past Panthers teams, the turnaround needs to start now. The Panthers play a last place Devils team tonight, a big wild card swing game on Thursday vs the Flyers and the Oilers. 5 of 6 points might be necessary for them.

These next few games will see if the culture has changed for Panthers hockey, or we will see if they are heading towards missing the playoffs again for the 18th time in the last 20 years.

For the sake of the Panthers, we hope this is just a rough patch and we see them playing hockey in mid-April.   

Panthers Get Two Late Goals, Top Wild 5-4

Entering the game Monday, the Panthers were riding a season high four game winning streak, with a chance to extend it to five, playing the Minnesota Wild on the road. 

The Panthers hadn’t  won a game in Minnesota in over 10 years, last time being when Corey Stillman, the father of current Panther Riley, scored the game winning shoot-out goal.

The Panthers played a very well rounded game, getting up by a goal in each period until losing the lead late at 4-3. With about four minutes left in the third period, Vincent Trocheck came in on a stretch pass and scored the game tying goal. Later in the period, with four seconds remaining before overtime, Noel Accari scored on a deflection to give the Panthers a 5-4 win, extending the win streak to five games.

The offense continued its hot streak, scoring 5 goals, by 5 different scorers. The Panthers  have scored at least 4 goals in every game that they’ve won dating back to November. With 179 goals, the Panthers offense currently is tied for the most goals in the NHL.

The Panthers defense, which has been improving as of late, had another solid game. Panthers goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky saved 29 of the 33 shot attempts he faced.

The Panthers have one game left in the first half of the season, they go into Chicago tomorrow to face the Blackhawks before the All-Star break. 

The five game win streak is huge for the Panthers. From what started as a bumpy, up and down first half of the season, the Panthers are closing it strong.

With another two points, the Panthers are now on a 101 point pace. They find themselves two points clear of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. They trail the lightning by 3 points for 2nd. 

Florida Panthers: Michael Matheson is upping his play

The Florida Panthers have benefited from his play over the past couple games.

As the Florida Panthers get ready to begin their road trip against the Detroit Red Wings, one Panther is looking to continue his hot streak. Michael Matheson has been playing well over the past couple of games. Now, he is looking to continue that hot streak.

Matheson has scored six goals and recorded six assists in 40 games this season. Notching 12 points, he has recorded three points in his last five games. Most recently against the Los Angeles Kings, he recorded a goal and an assist. Prior to that, he had a goal and an assist against Toronto on January 12.

His shot totals have stayed in the upper-20s range, and he is getting pucks to the net. Matheson recorded 23 shots against the Kings, and 25 against the Maple Leafs. He has been extremely active on the ice, and he has seen an increase in ice time. He was on the ice for 20:43 against Los Angeles and 21:00 against Toronto.

Panthers have golden opportunity

The Detroit Red Wings have one of the worst defenses in the league. Allowing 3.83 goals per game, that is last in the National Hockey League. Backup goaltender Calvin Picard is expected between the pipes against Florida on Saturday.  Picard is 0-2 against the Panthers the season.

The last time these two teams met, the Panthers beat the Red Wings by a 5-4 margin. Matheson had a shot in 21 shifts, equaling to 19:54 in ice time.

The stars are aligning for Matheson to have another big game. He has been a great secondary scorer for the team lately. The Boston College product filled a similar role in Chestnut Hill, and he is doing the same for the Panthers. It will be interesting to see what he can do against a Red Wings team that has been struggling as of late. Whatever he is doing right now is working well.

Panthers Score 7, Top Stars 7-4

The Panthers enter tonight 6th in the Atlantic at 16-12-5. Though a dip in the standings, they aren’t far behind. They sit two points back of 3rd place in the Atlantic with three games in hand of Buffalo.
This game wrapped up a franchise record 9 game home stand, one that has been disappointing for the Panthers. They finish the home stand 5-4 and taking 10 of the Possible 18 points.

The Panthers came out of the gate hot, getting the first goal of the game on the power play. With a nice screen assist from Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau buried his 12th goal of the season at 4:34 in the first. After a goal by Denis Gurianov to tie the game in the first, Anton Stralman ripped a shot of the face off that got past Ben Bishop to put the Panthers up 2-1. The Panthers outshot the Stars 15-7 in the first.

The second period was a much different story for the Panthers. They arguably played their best period of the season, scoring 5 goals. Noel Acciari, who scored a hat trick on Monday night, got a hat trick in 8 minutes of game play in the second period. The third in final goal came on a penalty shot, which he was rewarded for after getting fouled on a breakaway while the Panthers were short handed. Dallas got one goal back late in the second to make it 7-2.

In the third period, the Panthers came out a bit flat, committing a penalty and letting up two goals, making the 7 goal blow out, look a little bit better for them on the scoreboard.

Overall, it was a game the Panthers desperately needed. A well rounded game where they exploded offensively and had a solid night on the defensive and goaltending end. Panthers will improve to 17-12-5 on the season, good for 39 points on the season. They play again tomorrow in Carolina to start a 2 game road trip before Christmas break.