Miami Sports…are They Becoming Good Again?

The ever changing Miami sports landscape has been on a steady trend downward since the end of the “Big 3 era” of Miami Heat basketball.

Now there were some amazing moments since then, such as Dwyane Wade’s Last Dance and the Miami Miracle.

Those fleeting instances have been sandwiched between years of mediocrity.

The Marlins tore it all down, again.

The Heat had a bloated, ineffective roster.

We all know where Adam Gase left the Dolphins.

Manny Diaz is trying to bring the Hurricanes back.

Even the Panthers, a team with legitimate playoff aspirations recently, has disappointed.

Expecting anything different has become an annual disappointment.

Until now.

Dolphins Vision Unfolding

All of a sudden there is exciting and competitive football being played by the Miami Dolphins.

Who for once are actually exceeding expectations.

Yet we still aren’t happy.

Brian Flores has steadily guided a team lacking NFL level talent across multiple positions into a disciplined and passionate group.

Flores and his coaching staff are developing players and proving it “Takes No Talent” to compete.

Chris Grier has a war chest of draft capital, and actual capital of about 140M to quickly add top tier free agents.

With a shot at a franchise quarterback to boot.

For once the Dolphins have a plan and the cast to execute and deliver a winner.

Culture Shock

The Miami Heat seem to have figured out their roster around a true star in Jimmy Butler.

And are interesting as hell.

 

Getting back to their defensive identity and bringing back the “Culture” led by Butler has galvanized a young roster.

Currently the Heat rank fourth in defensive rating and third in steals per game (9.6). Miami also ranks in the top ten league wide in points-per-game allowed (105.7, 6th) steals (96, 5th) and overall defensive FG% (.437, 9th).

Smart perimeter defense has been key, the Heat lead the NBA in 3-point FG% allowed at just 28.9%. Only Miami and Oklahoma City are holding teams under 30% from deep as of November 13th.

 

Hassan Whiteside went to Portland which paved the way for Bam Adebayo to become the all around catalyst we see before us. Before being sidelined with a concussion, Justise Winslow was taking a huge step forward as well.

Finally the Heat have a cohesive roster that fits their style of play and identity, in a wide open Eastern Conference the Heat are suddenly poised for a home playoff series if they stay on track.

Cardiac Cats

In Sunrise the Florida Panthers under new coach Joel Quenneville are playing exciting, action packed hockey. Florida has won their last two games by an 11-9 margin…that’s a lot of goals!

After making franchise history with a four goal rally against Boston this week, the Panthers are showing tremendous toughness and resolve in late game pressure situations.

 

In the two wins against Boston and New York the Panthers outscored them 5-0 in the third period. Despite shaky goaltending and defense the Cats have found a way to get it done in the final 20 minutes.

It helps to have a top ten offense on your side, Aleksander Barkov has points in six straight games entering Thursday’s action and the power play continues to dominate.

Florida ranks second with the man advantage, converting 26.8% of their power play opportunities.

If the Panthers can figure out their issues on the blue line and in goal to support a dynamic offense, they have a great chance of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

Hurricanes’ Season a Tale of two Teams

The Miami Hurricanes football team has had a polarizing season to say the least.

From quarterback uncertainty and losses against inferior teams early in the year, to blowout wins and record breaking performances – the 2019 Miami Hurricanes have kept fans on the edge of their seats.

After an uneven start to the season on offense, Jarren Williams has settled in as QB1 and hitting the big plays that were missing earlier in the year.

 

The Hurricanes have won three straight in ACC play by a combined margin of 95-49, after starting conference play 1-3 the turnaround has been drastic.

On the other side of the ball the defense has been wrecking house led by new and older names alike.

Senior linebackers Michael Pinckney and Shaq Quarterman have experienced a resurgence of energy and effectiveness.

While Gregory Rousseau went from out of the starting lineup to the best defensive lineman in the ACC, and one of the best in all of college football.

 

The Hurricanes have a star in the making both under center and at defensive end, two of the most important positions in football.

And they are both freshman.

With a coaching staff starting to figure it out and a favorable ACC Coastal division to call home, the sun is shining bright in Coral Gables.

Don’t Forget About us!

While the teams that are in action in November are getting all the attention, there are more great storylines in Miami sports on the way.

The Marlins have quietly built one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.

Oh yeah, we are getting professional soccer too!

We could be saying this time next year “what a time to be a Miami sports fan”

A statement that is well deserved and long overdue.

Follow us on Twitter for all things Miami sports @FiveReasonsSports and @SportsWaveDave.

Photo by Tony Capobianco.

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

Twitter’s Reaction to the Panthers Historic Comeback

 

 

The Florida Panthers had their largest comeback in franchise history last night as they shocked the Boston Bruins. Down 4-0 going into the 3rd period last night, they scored four unanswered goals to send the game to overtime.

 

The first period was close and competitive with no goals going either way. The second period Boston completely poured it on Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers then changed goalies to Sam Montembeault and the historic comeback began.  

 

Twitter went absolutely crazy as Bruins fans looked completely shocked. You could hear a pin drop inside the TD Garden during the third period and overtime as the Panthers took the life out of the arena.  Here are some great reactions down below from this historic comeback:

 

Florida Panthers claw way to comeback win over Boston Bruins

The Florida Panthers won a wild game at the TD Garden on Tuesday.

It is safe to say that the Comeback Cats have lived up to their nickname. The Florida Panthers went toe-to-toe with the Boston Bruins in a wild game at TD Garden on Tuesday night. The good guys came out on the winning edge of things after the situation looked very bleak.

Before they got the victory, the Florida Panthers had to weather the storm.

Goals by David Pasternak, Joakim Nordstrom, Anders Bjork, and Zdeno Chara in the second period led to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky being pulled from the game at the start of the third period. Down four goals, something had to change for the Florida Panthers. The winds of change were certainly present as Sam Montembeault began the start of the third frame. It was almost as if something clicked for the Florida Panthers. It wasn’t that they were slacking off all night. If anything, they were playing their game for the entirety of the contest.

They just kept plugging away. They weren’t doing anything special, they were just firing shots at Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask. If there is one thing this team has proved so far this season, it is that they never give up. That was certainly the case Tuesday night.

The Florida Panthers get things going at the right time

Aaron Ekblad got the party going for the Panthers just 50 seconds into the third period. He hammered a beautiful pass from Keith Yandle just outside the left circle to make it a 4-1 game. Shooting from the left side, Rask had no chance at seeing it.

Jonathan Huberdeau  contributed to the next goal which was scored by Frank Vatrano. Huberdeau dished a nice pass to Vatrano who ripped a shot by a screened Rask to make it 4-2. You could definitely sense that the tone of the game was changing. The Panthers got their skating legs back and they were able to put forth a much better effort than they had in the first two periods.

Mike Hoffman was the beneficiary of a Bruins powerplay as he scored the next goal for Florida at the 9:43 mark. You could see Rask beginning to melt down a bit, and the Bruins almost played a bit scared in the third frame. That was definitely evident when the game was tied courtesy of a Keith Yandle goal, and somehow, the Panthers  managed to come back from four goals down. It was almost as if the Panthers were destined to win this game. Yandle’s goal was no small feat. With 1:39 left in the third period, traffic at the net forced the puck to bounce around for a bit. Yandle was the right place at the right time to pick it up.

As a result, a shootout ensued, and Hoffman was there to tally the game-winner. Charlie Coyle managed to record a goal for Boston, but it wasn’t enough as Vincent Trocheck gave the Panthers an early cushion. This led to Hoffman being able to seal the deal, as the Florida Panthers won a game for the second night in a row.

These Florida Panthers never give up

This has been a hallmark of the Florida Panthers all season. They play a gritty style of hockey. They don’t divert away from the game plan, they just keep plugging away. That was evident on Tuesday night. They just kept plugging away and shot pucks at the net. Especially in the third frame, their passes were crisp and they remained focused. There is this old hockey cliché that states “if you shoot pucks at the net, good things will happen.” The Panthers certainly lived by that adage Tuesday.

This team is a lot of fun to watch. Their wins may not always be pretty, and they may have some rough games. However, they will always compete and play hard. As a fan, that’s I can ask for.

 

 

 

Panthers Defense Must Stand Tall Against Struggling Bruins

The Florida Panthers (8-4-5, 21 points) are back in action Tuesday when they travel to Boston (11-3-3, 25 points) to finish out a three game road trip.

Florida has split the first two games and are coming off an exciting 6-5 shootout win over the New York Rangers.

Evgenii Davodov tied a career high in the win with three points on a goal and two assists.

Boston leads the Atlantic Division with those 25 points while Florida is right in the middle of the pack, which is a better place than in recent years where they occupied the cellar early in the season.

The Panthers and Bruins are tied for 5th in the NHL in scoring with 60 goals, both teams have played 17 games entering Tuesday.

Where the difference lies is in goals allowed, Florida is tied for the fourth most goals allowed (also 60) while Boston has surrendered just 41.

That’s the difference between being second in goals allowed per game for Boston (2.41GAA) versus 26th in GAA for the Panthers (3.53).

Florida allows the ninth fewest shots against per game (30.2) so the conversion percentage for their opponents is an issue.

 

The Panthers defense has allowed at least five goals in seven games already, winning just once (against the Rangers this week).

Newly acquired goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (6-3-4, 3.39GAA, .884SV%) has struggled and his numbers are well below his career averages.

Florida’s offense has not been the issue and the recent resurgence of captain Aleksander Barkov has helped carry the team through inconsistent defensive efforts.

After not scoring a goal in his first 12 games this year, Barkov has found the net in five straight contests and leads the Panthers with 22 points overall.

 

Boston is in their own funk at the moment, losing three in a row following a six game win streak. The Bruins are banged up with forwards Jake Debrusk and David Backes hitting injured reserve this week.

They are still plenty of weapons for Boston as top scorers David Pastrnak (15 goals, 15 assists) and Brad Marchand (11 goals, 18 assists) are ever dangerous.

Pastrnak has six points in his last five games but none in the previous two losses, while Marchand has four goals and four assists in his last five outings.

Puck drops from the TD Garden in Boston at 7:00PM. Make sure to check out Alex Donno on the pre and post game broadcasts on 560 WQAM as well.

 

 

 

Surging Panthers ride Huberdeau, Barkov to easy win

Something’s happening here.

After Saturday’s dominant, no-doubt 4-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings, the Florida Panthers have now won six of their past nine games. And this seems, well, real. They’ve survived the start of the season, which typically buries them, and they’ve done it with star Sasha Barkov struggling to score and hyped goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky posting a goals-against-average near four.

Both, however, were exceptional Saturday on a night the Panthers were without several regulars, including Vincent Trocheck.

Barkov hasn’t admitted to an injury, but he has appeared hobbled at times. Not Saturday. He was everywhere, from faceoffs to the crease, finishing with a goal and an assist — and four of the Panthers’ 41 shots. Bobrovsky wasn’t tested much after the opening few minutes, but stopped all 22 shots he saw.

So now the Panthers have 18 points through 14 games, compared to 15 points through 14 games last season and 10 points through 14 games the season prior.

Most importantly, they seem to be grasping Joel Quenneville’s system. The coach was beaming about how “clean” they played in their own end — very few chances, even fewer Red Wings left unmarked on rebounds.

Here are a few of the tweets from the game, and after:

Here are player videos:

 

 

And here’s a video from Michael “Dutch” Sonbeek, who covered the game with me for Five Reasons Sports.

Panthers Look to Even up on Road Trip vs Avalanche

The Florida Panthers (5-3-4, 14 points) seek to close out an up-and-down four game road trip Wednesday when they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Florida has lost two out of three away from Sunrise, including a 7-2 waxing at Vancouver Monday night.

 

Backup goalie Sam Montembeault was roughed up in that one, which forced Sergei Bobrovsky to step in on his scheduled day off.

Florida had their eight game point streak snapped and have given up 15 goals in their last three games, losing two.

Alexsander Barkov is still seeking his first goal but is tied for the team lead in overall points thanks to his 13 assists.

Evgenii Davodov has boosted the Florida offense with points in three straight games (2 goals, assist).

Mackenzie Weegar has also provided a much lift in scoring from the blue line, he picked up two assists in their 6-2 win at Edmonton during the trip.

Weegar leads all defenseman for the Panthers with eight points on three goals and five assists.

Bobrovsky (4-2-3, 3.79GAA, .870SV%) should get the start in net for the Panthers.

Meanwhile for the Avalanche they enter the game losing two out of three as well but have been stellar to start the season (8-2-1, 17 points).

Colorado fell to the Anaheim Ducks in their last game on Saturday and should be well rested with three full days to prepare.

Nathan McKinnon leads the Avs with 15 points and had a goal and an assist in Colorado’s 5-4 win against the Panthers October 18th.

Colorado is a solid offense, ranking 10th in the NHL in goals scored with 258 and seventh in power play conversions at 22%. Florida has been solid on the penalty kill, ranking 10th killing 81.3% when down a man.

The Panthers will still be without forward Vincent Trocheck while Colorado is down top forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

Florida will hopefully be able to put up a solid defensive effort given the shuffling top lines for Colorado, play on the blue line continues to be an issue for the Cats.

Puck drops from the Pepsi Center in Denver is 10:00PM EST.

Make sure to follow @SportsWaveDave for more Florida Panthers news. 

Check out the Goldie On Ice Podcast hosted by Steve Goldstein for exclusive Panthers content. Photo by Tony Capobianco

 

Suddenly Surging Panthers Must Keep Early Momentum

The surging Florida Panthers (4-2-3, 11 points) seek their third straight win Thursday when they visit the Calgary Flames.

Florida now has points in six consecutive games, led by Jonathan Huberdeau who has points in four out of his last five outings.

 

Huberdeau had a goals and and assist in Florida’s 4-2 win Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (3-2-2, 3.75GAA, .878SV%) hasn’t had the best start in new surroundings but had a solid outing against Pittsburgh, stopping 23 of 25 shots and allowing just two goals.

The Panthers begin a four game trip through Western Canada with stops in Edmonton and Vancouver before ending the trip in Colorado.

Calgary (5-5-1) has been up and down so far and are coming off a 5-3 loss against the Washington Capitals. They are a middle of the pack team that doesn’t stand out in any one area.

Center Elias Lindholm leads the Flames with six goals while left winger Johnny Gaudreau paces the team with nine points (six goals, three assists)

Florida will need someone to help Huberdeau carry the scoring load, after a hot start Mike Hoffman has struggled of late.

After goals in three of four games to open the season, Hoffman has zero goals and a single assist in his last five outings.

Captain Alexsander Barkov is still looking for his first goal of the year but does lead the team with eight assists. Barkov added two helpers in the win against the Penguins and has five assists in his last four games overall.

Florida’s power play is off to a slow start (20%, 14th overall) but they have only had three chances in their last two wins, converting once.

The penalty kill has been excellent, ranking 6th overall league-wide at 87%. Meanwhile the Flames have struggled with the man advantage, ranking 22nd in the NHL with just a 16.7% success rate.

This is one clear advantage the Panthers can hopefully capitalize on.

Puck drops from the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary at 9PM EST.

 

 

Keith Yandle makes history in Panthers loss to Hurricanes

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle made history on Tuesday by playing in his 800th consecutive NHL game.

The 33-year-old veteran scored on a power-play goal with 10:26 left in the third period but the Panthers fell 6-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Yandle’s career stared in 2006 with the Phoenix Coyotes. The last game he missed was March 22, 2009.

The Panthers were unable to overcome a four-goal deficit after the first period. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was replaced by Sam Montembeault to start the second period. He finished the game with 19 saves.

“He played great,” Yandle said of Montembeault’s performance. “He gave us a chance to get back in it. We feel bad that we hung Bob [Bobrovsky] out to try, especially with how he played last game for us. It’s just one of those things, for us, that’ll be a good test for us to see how we respond.”

The Panthers outscored the Hurricanes 3-2 during the second and third period with the last Carolina goal coming after Florida pulled their goalie to create a 6-on-5 scenario.

“I think the message is clear that we’ve got to play our system to the drop of the puck until the end of the game,” Yandle said. “Once we buckled down and played the way [the coaches] want us to play, in the second and third you could tell we were the more dominant team, but we were chasing too much.” 

The Hurricanes have won their fourth straight game to begin the season, equaling the best start in franchise history.

A South Florida team wins! Panthers take home opener

Some team needs to save us.

The Miami Heat may do it. They feel better about this particular roster than any since the Big 3 era. Erik Spoelstra couldn’t stop smiling all week at training camp at Keiser University in West Palm Beach. But the Florida Panthers may have more talent, as ranked in its particular sport, than the Heat. They have two legit scoring lines, depth at forward, a couple of proven defensive pairings, elite goaltending — and now a guy, Joel Quenneville, who will know what to do with it.

After a season-opening loss against a stacked Tampa Bay Lightning squad, the Panthers returned home to face the Lightning again. And, in a 4-3 win, they looked good. Really good. Yes, the third period made you queasy, as it so often does. But Florida’s overall skill level is striking.

Some highlights…

Florida Panthers Open the 2019 Season vs Lightning

The Florida Panthers open the 2019 NHL season Thursday when they visit in-state rival Tampa Bay.

October is here, which means the peak of the fall sports calendar.

No changing of the leaves here, but there is a changing of the guard in Sunrise as Joel Quenneville looks for his first win behind the bench for the Cats.

The Panthers also added goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who will look to improve the overall defense which held the team back last year.

Tampa Bay comes off a disappointing first round playoff sweep against Columbus and will again be a Stanley Cup favorite this year.

The Lightning are the defending Atlantic Division champs (62-16-4, 128 points) and led the NHL in scoring with 325 goals.

Captain Steven Stamkos (45 goals, 53 assists) is the leader of an elite and deep group of forwards.

Tampa’s Trophy Case Grew

MVP Nikita Kucherov is deadly from the right wing and has over 100 points in two straight seasons. Last year’s Hart Trophy winner had 41 goals and 87 assists and is averaging 40 goals over his last three seasons.

Joining Kucherov with postseason honors is reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.

The 25-year old goaltender went 39-10-4 en route to the hardware and those 39 wins led the NHL. He also led the league in 2017 with 44 victories.

Vasilevskiy fell off a cliff in the playoff sweep against the Blue Jackets, losing all four contests and allowing 3.82 goals against per game (2.40 GAA in the regular season).

Tampa Bay excels on special teams and led the NHL in both power play percentage (28.2%) and penalty kill (85.0, tie).

How can the Panthers Compete?

Florida lost all four game to the Lightning by a combined score of 19-10, including a 7-3 blowout last November.

With a new system in place the Panthers communication must be sharp early, especially on the blue line.

The addition of defenseman Anton Stralman who spent the last five seasons in Tampa may give Florida a little insight into their game plan.

The Panthers can light the lamp in their own right, led by Aleksander Barkov on the top line.

We’ve mentioned the elite production of the Panther power play (2nd in 2018 26.8%), Florida will likely need a tally or two with the man advantage to keep up with the Lightning offense.

It should be an uptempo pace on offense, Florida will need to be crisp getting the puck out of their zone and through neutral ice.

Florida must also be disciplined on the power play in terms of defense, they were guilty of lapses leading to shorthanded goals for the opponent last year.

They cannot allow any extra opportunities for the dangerous Lightning attack.

The puck drops Thursday from Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL at 7PM EST.

Check back for a full recap of the Panthers opening week and follow us on Twitter for more hockey @SportsWaveDave and @5ReasonsSports.