5 Keys to the Panthers-Lightning Playoff Series

For the first time in franchise history, the Florida Panthers will face their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning in a playoff series. 

After finishing the 2020-2021 NHL regular season with 79 points in 56 games, the Panthers locked up the] second seed in the Discover Central Division, giving them home-ice advantage for their first round matchup against the Lightning. While Florida won the season series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions with a 5-2-1 record, the playoffs are a different monster. 

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

Stay Out of the Box

It’s obvious that you don’t want to take penalties in a hockey game, but when you are playing the Tampa Bay Lightning, that’s all the more reason not to go down a man. In the final three games of the season Florida did a really good job of shutting down Tampa’s powerplay. The Lightning were 0-12 on the man advantage over that stretch. 

However, Tampa still ranked NO. 8 in the league on the man advantage during the season, and they are expected to have captain Steven Stamkos and 2019 Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup sometime during the first round. With these two coming back alongside Brayden Point and Norris Trophy winner Victor Headman, their powerplay will be as lethal as ever. 

Throughout the year Florida had an average penalty kill at best, ranking 17th in the NHL at 79.8 percent. Tampa knows how to put the puck in the net, keep them off the power play. 

Use the Team’s Depth to your Advantage 

Bill Zito did an amazing job constructing this Panthers team in his first season as GM. Four of the seven leading scorers on the team weren’t on the roster last season and Florida has dressed over 20 skaters who didn’t suit up in a game last year for the Cats. All four forward lines have the talent and skill to compete with Tampa. 

Teams that have gone on to win the cup in the past have always relied on their bottom 6 to provide quality minutes down the stretch. Last year the Lightning relied on players like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman to bring energy to the ice when the top 6 wasn’t on. 

The Panthers have guys like Noel Acciari, Frank Vatrano and Patric Hornqvist who can go toe-to-toe with any line Tampa throws at them. Florida has a surplus of forwards who can come in and out of the lineup throughout a long and physical playoff series, this depth will prove to be beneficial in this matchup.

Get the Stars Rolling Early

Playoff hockey isn’t for the weak. The intensity of the game picks up, the physicality increases, and the goals become tougher to come by. The best thing for a team in a playoff series is to get their star players involved on the scoresheet early. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have once again proven to be elite hockey players this season. The duo averaged over a point per game on the season and they both hit the 20 goal mark. But the longtime Panthers aren’t alone this year. 

The offseason acquisitions of Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist and Alexander Wennberg have not only helped the Panthers this season, but it also took a large part of the offensive responsibilities off of Barkov and Huberdeau. Bill Zito also made a trade at the deadline for proven playoff performer and 2014 4th overall pick, Sam Bennett, from Calgary. Bennett has 15 points in 10 games this season for the Panthers and has 19 points in 30 career postseason games with the Flames. 

Throughout the season they all played a huge part in getting Florida to the playoffs. If these guys can show up offensively early in the series, Tampa is going to have a hard time trying to shut them down over seven games.

Win the Goalie Battle

Whoever is in net for the Panthers in game 1 will be going up against 2019 Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has once again proven to be one of the world’s top goalies this season, winning 31 of his 42 starts with a 2.21 GAA and a .925 save percentage. He has had a great year, but the Panthers have been one of the only teams in the league who consistently put multiple goals up on him, including nine total in their final two meetings of the season.

The Panthers have three goalies to choose from for this series. Sergei Bobrovsky won 19 of his 30 starts and has looked significantly better than he did last season for Florida. He has started the most games this season for the Panthers. Florida’s other goalie Chris Dreidger also had an impressive 2020-2021 campaign, winning 14 of his 23 starts and posting a .927 save percentage with a 2.07 GAA. Rookie Spencer Knight is also on the roster. The 20-year-old is 4-0-0 in his NHL career.

No matter who gets the crease for the majority of this series, they need to stand on their head. Tampa has the offensive firepower to score a few quick goals and run away with the game. You don’t want to be playing behind in the playoffs against the defending champions. 

Goalies win championships and Florida has a few really talented netminders who can steal them a playoff series if needed. 

Bring the Physicality

This Panthers team is different than any other team I have seen. This roster is physical, strong and hungry. In the final two games of the season, Florida needed three points to clinch home-ice advantage for the first round. 

Tampa came to town and tried to bring the pressure to the Cats. Florida didn’t back down from the fight, or fights. On May 8, the Florida-Tampa game had 154 total penalty minutes and a large part of that was due to the bad blood between the two sides. Everytime Tampa came out aggressive, everyone on Florida answered the bell and the Cats took that game 5-1. The Panthers made the message clear that night, they weren’t going to let anyone beat them up at their home in front of their fans.

The BB&T Center will be at nearly 50 percent capacity for the first round. With the building rocking and the city excited, Florida will feed off of that energy and bring the game to Tampa.

What to Expect

Both teams have a lot to play for in this series. Tampa just won the cup and they want to defend it, not lose in the first round. Florida has little playoff experience and they just saw the only other NHL team in their state win the whole thing last year, they don’t want to be the little brother anymore. From what we saw over the eight regular season games, these two sides clearly don’t like each other. Expect a hard fought, extremely exciting and not so “polite’ series in this first round matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. 


The new look Panthers start season strong

The Panthers have been South Florida’s hottest team over the month of January with a 5-0-1 record in a six game span. The Cats are off to their best start in franchise history early on in this shortened NHL season. 

A large part of the team’s early success can be attributed to all of the new players the Panthers have in the lineup this season. In six games this year, Florida has used 13 different players who did not play a game with the team last season.

After a mediocre 2019-2020 campaign which saw the team get bounced in the Stanley Cup qualifying round by the New York Islanders, Florida clearly needed to make a lot of changes. 

Which started with the front office.

Shortly after being eliminated, the Panthers and general manager Dale Tallon mutually agreed to part ways, bringing his tenure in Florida to an end. Not satisfied with three playoff appearances and no playoff series wins during Tallon’s decade-long tenure, Florida hired  former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant general manager Bill Zito as the new gm.

Zito immediately went to work, completely changing the roster over the offseason. With the departures of top players like Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov over the past year, Florida needed to add more depth to the forward core. And that’s exactly what they did.

Two of the biggest moves was the signing of NHL All Star Anthony Duclair and Stanley Cup Champion Carter Verhaeghe. Both players were put on the top line with captain Aleksander Barkov to start the season and they haven’t looked back. The trio has combined for 20 points in six games this year and have dominated oppositions nearly every time they are on the ice. The speed and puck skills of Verhaeghe and Duclair have helped open up Barkov’s game this year. The Finn has never looked more dominant.

Another huge offseason move made by Zito was the acquisition of two-time Stanley Cup champion Patric Hornqvist for Mike Matheson. It was evident that Matheson had become a liability on the back end, especially when the Panthers entered the NHL postseason bubble as he was scratched twice in four games. The veteran Hornqvist came into Florida and hasn’t shown any signs of aging as he already has five goals to start the season.

Hornqvist joined last year’s leading scorer Jonathan Huberdeau and former Blue Jacket Alexander Wennberg on the second line. The Barkov, Verhaeghe, Duclair line has received all the attention so far, but this second unit is just as dangerous. They have combined for 16 points in six games. As of now, the losses of Hoffman and Dadonov don’t seem to be an issue for Florida.

As the Panthers progress through the 56 game season, a huge key to their success will be the goalie tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Dreidger. After signing a 7-year, $70M contract, he only posted a 23-19-6 record with a 3.23 GAA, ranking in the bottom third of the league. The two-time Vezina winner didn’t have a good season in 2019-2020, but he is talented enough to bounce back.

So far this season, Bob and Dreidger have split the games evenly. Even though it hasn’t all been pretty, if they can both stay on their game, this 1A-1B tandem will win Florida some much needed games down the stretch.

With the condensed schedule consisting of many back to backs and short turn arounds, teams around the league are going to rely on two goalies more than ever. Whether it’s Carey Price and Jake Allen in Montreal or Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner in Vegas, top teams this year have been using multiple goalies. When they are on their A-game, Bobrovsky and Dreidger are one of the best duos in the league.

Top to bottom, this year’s Panthers team has something for fans to be excited about. The top 6 looks great, young players like Aleksi Heponiemi and Owen Tippett have been getting opportunities, Aaron Ekblad has continued to shape into a solidified top defenseman and the Reverse Retro jerseys look unbelievable.

We have barely started this NHL season but you could already sense a different vibe to this Florida team. They have more energy and excitement than any Panthers team I could remember watching. They haven’t played some of the top teams in Discover Central division yet, but with what we’ve seen on the ice so far, there’s no reason why Florida can’t be one of the four teams to make the playoffs out of the division.

NHL Playoffs: Breaking down the next round

The NHL has released its official playoff schedule following the end of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, where eight teams were eliminated to form the 16-team playoff bracket. While this year has been a year like no other, what with the COVID-19 pandemic halting play before the end of the regular season, the NHL will hold the Stanley Cup Playoffs now in its two hub cities, Toronto and Edmonton.


Eastern Conference


#1 Philadelphia Flyers (49-21-7) vs #8 Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9)


Both of these teams have underdog status after Philadelphia went from second place in the Metropolitan Division to the #1 seed after winning its three round robin matches and the Canadiens finished off an improbable 3-1 series versus the 5th seed Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifying round.  While the Flyers are favored to win this series, they have been known to get lazy when they feel an easy matchup in the wind. The Canadiens are also coming off those big wins versus the Penguins, led by Jeff Petry (two game-winning goals) and goaltender Carey Price, whose experience far outpaces that of the Flyer’s 21-year-old goalie, Carter Hart. Price will have his work cut out for him defending the Flyers’ four 20+ goal scorers (Giroux, Couturier, Hayes, Konecny), however, so look for goaltending to make or break this series and don’t be surprised if Montreal pulls off the upset.


Game 1: Wednesday, Aug 12 8pmEST



#2 Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6) vs #7 Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15)


The Blue Jackets shocked the NHL when they swept the #1 ranked Lightning last season in the first round, which makes this rematch one of the most interesting series of the 2020 playoffs. The Lightning, who had tied the NHL regular season record for wins that year, as well as scoring a record-breaking 128 points, psychologically crumbled versus the Blues. This year, they’ll look to prove that last season’s early exit was just a fluke. However, Tampa Bay will be without Captain Steven Stamkos, who is dealing with a leg injury, for the foreseeable future. This should be a high-scoring series between two teams familiar with the playoffs (and with each other).


Game 1: Tuesday, Aug 11 3pmEST



#3 Washington Capitals (41-20-8) vs #6 New York Islanders (35-23-10)


The story to watch in this matchup will be that of Barry Trotz going up against his former Stanley Cup winning squad. The current Islanders head coach helped the Capitals win the franchises’ first championship just a couple of years ago, but now his road to the Cup leads through the Caps instead of with them. Despite the Islanders being the lower ranked seed, Trotz’s knowledge of the Capitals, who still have 12 players who were on that Cup-winning roster in 2018, will be imperative in this matchup, and could lead to the Isles stealing the show like they did in their qualifying round series versus the Florida Panthers.


Game 1: Wednesday, Aug 12 3pmEST



#4 Boston Bruins (44-14-12) vs #5 Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5)


The Bruins return to play has been less than ideal, with the team losing all three of their round robin matches against the Flyers, Lightning, and Capitals. During that time, Boston only put together four goals, but their play did improve with each game and star goaltender Tuukka Rask was ruled unfit for play twice, which could have something to do with the losses. Rask is expected to play on Tuesday. Look out for individual play from the Canes’ Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho and the Bruins’ David Pastrnak. Svechnikov had his first NHL hat trick in Game 2 of the qualifying round versus the Rangers and has had a breakout season with 61 points in 68 games. Aho has momentum of his own as well, with eight points against New York (three goals, five assists) and 20 points in 18 NHL postseason games. But Pastrnak has been a machine this season, tying Alexander Ovechkin for the most goals (48) and finishing first in power-play goals (20) and third in power-play points (38).


Game 1: Tuesday, Aug 11 8pmEST


Western Conference



#1 Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8) vs #8 Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8)


The Blackhawks finished at the bottom of the Western Conference rankings in the regular season with just 72 points but managed to scrape into the Qualifiers with the 12th seed. In their return to play, Chicago has looked like a completely different team, winning the qualifying series versus the 5th-seeded Edmonton Oilers 3-1 with 16 total goals. The Hawks’ regular season woes are clearly behind them and they come into the series with a core of three-time Cup winners in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. However, the Golden Knights are having another championship-worthy season, finishing at the top of the Pacific Division in the regular season and winning all three of their round robin matchups versus the Stars, Blues, and Avalanche. Vegas also has upside at goalie with three-time champion Marc-Andre Fleury in the net, backed up by Robin Lehner, who played twice in the round robin games, winning each with a combined .903 save percentage. Meanwhile, Chicago’s goaltender Corey Crawford has been trending upward after struggling in the first two games of the qualifying round series. Though the Blackhawks have a lot going for them, it will probably not be enough to beat out the Golden Knights, who are quickly becoming familiar faces in the playoffs in only their third year of existence.


Game 1: Tuesday, Aug 11 10:30pmEST



#2 Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8) vs #7 Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8)


The Avalanche looked good in their round robin play with two victories over the Blues and Stars, including a shutout versus the latter, and a one-goal loss to the Golden Knights. General manager Joe Sakic, who had an illustrious 21-year career with the Avalanche, including two titles in ’96 and ’01, has stayed with the team long after his retirement from playing to put together one of the deepest rosters in the NHL. The Avalanche are led by young stars Nathan MacKinnon, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, and Cale Makar, a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Meanwhile the Coyotes are on somewhat new territory, this being their first time in the playoffs since 2012. However, they pulled off the upset over the sixth-seeded Nashville Predators in the Qualifiers and have lots of momentum coming into the first round. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper is hot right now, with a .933 save percentage versus the Preds.


Game 1: Wednesday, Aug 12 5:30pmEST



#3 Dallas Stars (37-24-8) vs #6 Calgary Flames (36-27-7)


The Stars have had a newsworthy season, if only because of the firing of head coach Jim Montgomery in December. Dallas replaced him on an interim basis with Rick Bowness, who was previously an assistant coach in the organization. It should be interesting to see how Bowness shakes things up, but both teams should have a fairly straightforward approach to the playoffs. The Stars will be looking for a shift in momentum, as they’ve been trending down for some time now, losing eight of their last nine, with the one win coming on Sunday’s round robin matchup versus the Blues, where Denis Gurianov managed to pull out the W in shootouts. The Flames, meanwhile, have been scoring big with 16 total goals in their 4-game series versus the Jets, including one six-goal outing and a 4-0 shutout to decisively take the qualifying round. Expect this series to be close and physical.


Game 1: Tuesday, Aug 11 5:30pmEST



#4 St Louis Blues (42-19-10) vs #5 Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6)


While the Blues took first place in the Central Division at the end of the regular season, not to mention winning the Cup last year, their return to play in 2020 has been shaky at best. St Louis lost all three of their round-robin contests versus the Avalanche, the Golden Knights, and the Stars, the last in a heartbreaking shootout. And history is not on their side in this matchup versus Vancouver. The Canucks have played the Blues three times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the latest in 2009, and won all three times. Furthermore, Vancouver is hot from a 3-1 qualifying series versus Minnesota where they managed to shut out the Wild once and win the series in an OT thriller off a Christopher Tanev wrister 11 seconds into overtime. The Blues will need to take over the third period if they hope to win this series, as they entered the third with the lead in all three of their round robin games, only to be outscored by a total of 6-0.


Game 1: Wednesday, Aug 12 10:30pmEST

What Florida Panthers need in a new General Manager

5 Things The Florida Panthers Should Look For in Their New GM


On Friday afternoon, the Florida Panthers suffered another loss filled with easily avoided mistakes to the New York Islanders in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 5-1 defeat sent the Islanders to the next round and the Panthers home with a bitter, yet familiar, feeling. The last time the Panthers made the playoffs was in 2016, when they won the Atlantic Division but lost to the same team, the Isles, in the first round, which makes this last loss particularly hard to swallow. What have the Panthers learned from 2016? Not much, it seems, and not much in the last 24 years, dating back to the last time they won a playoff series. Something needs to change, and that started with the reported firing of longtime General Manager Dale Tallon immediately following the game.

Here’s what the Panthers need to look for in a new GM:


#1: High quality drafting


Tallon spent the first four years of his 10-year stint with the Panthers doing some impressive work in the draft. In his first year as the Panthers GM, he drafted defenseman Erik Gudbranson and forward Nick Bjugstad, both of which have since moved to different clubs but served the Cats well. Tallon continued to draft well over the next few years, taking a generational talent in center Aleksander Barkov (2013) and big Panthers names like Jonathan Huberdeau (2011), Vincent Trocheck (now on the Hurricanes), and Aaron Ekblad (2014). Some of his later picks, like seventh rounder MacKenzie Weegar (2013), have also proved prosperous. But drafting fell off after 2014 with few of the Cats’ picks getting ice time. 


If the Panthers want to be serious playoff contenders, they need a GM who can do what Tallon did in his heyday and draft young, talented players to learn under experienced veteran leaders. With the loss to the Isles, the Panthers can at least look forward to a chance at drafting Alexis Lafreniere if they get a good position in the lottery draft. 


#2: Reduction of contractual mistakes


As things go in any pro league, there are inevitable mistakes made when it comes to contracts, but the last few years have been a bit harder on the Panthers than many would expect.


Tallon’s previously salvageable legacy was effectively and brutally tarnished by the moves he made in the Vegas expansion draft. The loss of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith for what amounts to nothing, as well as trading Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to Pittsburgh (also for basically nothing but more contractual obligations), is too much to even get into. 


Then there’s the recent controversy over Mike Matheson. You could ask most Panthers fans over the last few years what they thought of Mike Matheson and they probably would’ve given you a glowing review of the 26-year-old defenseman. But Matheson is on the hot seat now after committing two excessively violent penalties against the Isles in the first two games of the series, including a hit against Johnny Boychuk which took him out of play for the rest of the series. Matheson was benched, and if the problems persist into next season, the Panthers may have a big problem offloading his contract, which has five more years and over $24 million left on it. 


But Matheson is chump change compared to the catastrophe that was the signing of Dave Bolland. In 2014, the Panthers signed Bolland to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. In two seasons, he played in only 78 out of 164 possible games due to injuries. Eventually, the Cats sent him to the Arizona Coyotes for a couple of picks, but Bolland never played another game. Just a few millions down the drain…


The Panthers new GM can’t make these mistakes. Players must be evaluated, not only for talent, but also for physical health and decision-making, especially when it comes to how they will represent the team. Not every player, no matter how talented they may be on the ice, is worth a long-term contract.


#3: Understanding of a winning formula (with an emphasis on consistency)


When the Cats won the Atlantic Division in 2016, it was because of a very specific player formula. The Panthers took their young core (Barkov, Huberdeau, Bjugstad, Trocheck, Ekblad) and let them grow under the leadership of hockey legends Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo, as well as veterans like Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, Brian Campbell, and Willie Mitchell, amongst others. 


Having a team of young stars is great, but you can’t blame them (at least, not entirely) when you run into consistency issues. Most young players won’t know how to win in a professional setting unless and until you teach them, and the easiest way to do that is to let winners teach them. The Cats’ consistency issues recently may be a result of having only four players over 30 on the roster. While deserved, it does say something that the team captain is only 24 years old.


#4: Development of a young goaltender


What can we say about Sergei Bobrovsky? The 31-year-old goalie has definitely had his moments this season, but his contract, signed by Dale Tallon, has definitely put the Panthers in the hole for the next six seasons. Bobrovsky lucked into a 7-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers only because of Tallon’s incompetence. 


The Panthers have cycled through a few young goaltenders since Roberto Luongo’s retirement, including AHL call-up Sam Montembeault, who had a few of his own moments as a backup to Bobrovsky, and Chris Driedger, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Panthers last year. Either or both of these two could turn out to be valuable aspects of the future of the organization, but they are also competing against the Panthers first round draft pick of last year, Spencer Knight. Knight is the first goaltender ever taken in the first round by the franchise, and was ranked as the top eligible goaltender in the 2019 Draft.


One of these three goalies needs to prove himself a standout to take over as Bobrovsky’s backup (and maybe even to supersede him). But it will take some development to make it happen, and that will have to fall on the new GM’s shoulders.


#5: Locking up stars Mike Hoffman and/or Evgeni Dadanov (or replacing them)


The Panthers new GM will also need to look at keeping two of their most valuable players, Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadanov, locked up for the next few years, after they become free agents this season. 


Hoffman was the Panthers third-leading goal scorer this season with 29 goals and 30 assists in the regular season and three in the qualifying round to lead the team. His talents lie especially in the power play, where he dominates, but he is productive in most, if not all, aspects of the offense. His price will likely come in at around $7 million a year, but if the Panthers can keep him on, it seems worth the cap hit. 


Dadanov, meanwhile, has proved himself a worthy addition after some swapping around early in his NHL career. The right wing has scored at least 25 goals in his last three seasons, topping off at 70 points in the 2018-19 season, and frequently joins Huberdeau and Barkov on the Panthers’ first line. 


The Cats will need to balance the two players’ worth on the ice with their worth in their wallets because it will almost certainly take some big bucks to keep either of them in South Florida. It seems likely that at least one of them will have to be let go.

The Time Is Now For The Panthers


The time is now.

For the Panthers, that has two different meanings. But both of the meanings are just as important as each other.

After months of delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL season had been sidelined. When play stopped back in March, the Panthers were 10th place in the East and 3 points back of a playoff spot with a game in hand. It had been an overall disappointing season for the Panthers, since it was met with high expectations with the big off-season signing of Sergei Bobrovsky. However, the Panthers were coming off a big win and looked ready to make a final push.

Now after the delay, the NHL scrapped the regular season and decided to do a two city, NBA-like bubble. One in Toronto and one in Edmonton.

The top 12 teams in each conference made it to the bubble. The top 4 teams made it as a for sure playoff team while the other 8, including the Panthers, will play in a best of 5 Stanley Cup Qualifier round. 

For the Panthers, they drew the New York Islanders. If you remember, just a few years back, the Islanders beat the Panthers in a gut-wrenching 6 games series. That series, which was mostly dominated by the Panthers, was suppose to be their warning message to the rest of the NHL. Dale Talon’s blueprint had arrived.

Except, it hadn’t.

Since then, the Panthers have just mounted consecutive losing seasons and are on their 3rd coach since. Which is why now is so important. Now is so important for Dale Talon. For Sasha Barkov. For Jonathan Huberdeau. All these guys that have been here and have promised dominant South Florida hockey. This is a telling opportunity for this core to make some noise. If they don’t, you can start seeing some painful moves within the next couple seasons.

Now is also the time for the organization. It’s no secret the Panthers don’t have the best attendance numbers. It’s become a very annoying joke around hockey circles. However, the market has been craving sports. Inter Miami was bounced from the MLS Is Back Tournament and is an embarrassing 0-5, the Marlins season might be canceled since they’re in the middle of a team wide coronavirus outbreak and the Heat have a couple weeks of just meaningless regular season games before the post-season starts.

Meaning, the Panthers can be center of attention for the first since 1996 in South Florida. If they make a run here, people will notice because people WILL be watching. They get three afternoon playoff games, which should do well for their local ratings. They need to win these games and bring excitement to the average fan. They know what the stakes are here.

When the puck drops at 4pm on Saturday, the stakes will be high for the Panthers. A big series win or two can change the course of the organization for years to come, or, they lose and continue to be stuck in the middling mud, losing their little bit of shine they have left in South Florida.

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.



“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.