Mike Hoffman continues hot streak as Panthers roll over Leafs

 Mike Hoffman is proving to be a spark plug for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs by an 8-4 score on Sunday afternoon. Mike Hoffman was a big reason why. Hoffman has been on a tear the last couple of games, and Sunday was no different.

On his first goal of the day, it started off with Dominic Toninato creating a chance on the rush. Hoffman went stride-for-stride with Toninato and fired a wrist shot for the goal. Toninato did a nice job of finding Hoffman on the assist. Hoffman’s next goal came in the third period. Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov came on the power play and he scored his second goal of the game.

This offensive explosion was nothing new for Hoffman. He has scored five goals in his past four games. He has also tallied six points in his past five games as well. Prior to Sunday’s contest, he scored a goal against Vancouver on January 9. Going back even further, he scored a goal against the Arizona Coyotes on January 7. This explosion of offense for Hoffman is certainly a welcome development for the Panthers.

Hoffman proving to be clutch for Florida Panthers

Saturday, he had an even plus-minus rating and only took three shots. He recorded 19 shifts and 14:10 of ice time. In addition, he spent 1:37 on the power play. He was all over the ice on Sunday.

He is certainly a positive veteran presence on a team that is relatively young.  Hoffman scored 70 points last season after being traded to Florida in June. He has 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points this year.  He is showing exactly what he brings to the table.

Hoffman has been heating up at exactly the right time for the Panthers. He is being that sturdy veteran presence that the Panthers hoped he would be. It will be interesting to see how he performs over these next couple of weeks as the playoff race continues to heat up in the Eastern Conference.

 

Florida Panthers Poised for Second Half Run

The Florida Panthers are in a position for a strong second half of the NHL season.

As the calendar moves into the new year, the Panthers for once are not looking up from the bottom.

After a 4-1 loss at Columbus to open a four game trip, the Panthers bounced right back against Ottawa Thursday.

 

With a new system in place under Joel Quenneville, the Cats are playing exciting and fundamental hockey.

Florida has three shootout wins so far, tied for third most in the NHL.

The power play (23%) is once again a top-10 unit, while Florida is 5th in the NHL with 3.49 goals scored per game.

Those offensive numbers rank amongst the elite teams in the league, while the Panthers are finally getting some help on defense and in goal.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (14-11-4, 3.29GAA, .897SV%) has steadied after a rough start and has improved every month.

 

Bobrovsky’s save-percentage in December is .917, well better than his .897 for the entire season.

He has been especially effective at home with a 11-5-2 record, to go with a 2.95 GAA and .913 SV%.

Balancing the Scales

In recent seasons the Panthers have relied heavily on their offense, while being bludgeoned on the blue line and in net.

Jonathan Huberdeau is the superstar you didn’t even realize was right here all along.

 

Huby is fifth in the NHL with 37 assists through games played Jan. 1st, while his 53 points are eighth league wide.

The league is on notice as Huberdeau was finally selected to his first NHL All-Star game.

His partner in crime Sasha Barkov is once again having an All-Star caliber season after a slow start in terms of scoring.

Along with Evgenii Davodov and Mike Hoffman, the Panthers front lines are wrecking NHL goaltenders.

Florida has won six of eight entering Friday, and in five of those wins they have scored at least five goals.

The defense is a work in progress but Aaron Ekblad is having a career year on the blue line.

Ekblad already has 18 assists in 38 games, his career high was 27 in his rookie season. If he stays at his current pace he will certainly set a new career mark.

Quenneville a Stabilizing Presence

One encouraging trend for the Panthers is their ability to get out of extended losing streaks, while being able to stack short winning runs together.

The Panthers have only lost multiple games in a row on four occasions this year, while winning at least two consecutive games seven times.

Florida’s coaching staff led by Quenneville has given the team an identity and focus that was lacking in recent years.

It will be something to keep an eye on whether Coach Q can keep the team focused during an important stretch to close out January.

A coach that has won it all on multiple occasions is an important advantage for an unproven team, one that could help them get over the playoff hump.

Rest of January Sets Up Well

The Panthers have nine games remaining starting with Buffalo January 4th in the third game of this four game road trip.

Florida closes out the trek against Pittsburgh, both the Penguins and Sabres are right in the playoff race with the Panthers.

During the middle of the month the Panthers return to Sunrise for a four game home stand which will be a tough battle.

The Panthers will need to step up against high flying Western Conference opponents Arizona (50 points) and Vancouver (48 points).

Both sit near the top of the Pacific Division, Arizona is one of the top defensive teams (108 goals allowed, 5th) while Vancouver is eighth in the NHL with 136 goals scored.

After that to close out the home stand the lowly Los Angeles Kings (38 points) make their way East. The Kings are the fourth lowest scoring teams in the NHL at just 2.6 goals per game, a welcome respite for a Panthers defense allowing the fourth most goals per game (3.35).

To end the month the Cats embark on a six-game road trip which will run into February. Florida will kick off the trip against one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit has just 23 points this season and a league-worst -68 goal differential. The Cats close out January with winnable games at Minnesota and Chicago. Despite both teams being at least .500, they are also both allowing more goals than they score. Minnesota is -11 while Chicago is -16, both teams are also rank near the bottom of the league in goals allowed per game.

If the Panthers can improve their uneven play on home ice, particularly against the East, the rest of January sets up favorably.

Florida Panthers: Evgenii Dadonov shines in win over Ottawa

Dadonov is on fire for the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers right winger Evgenii Dadonov is a special hockey player. That was evident on Thursday as the Panthers beat Ottawa by a 6-3 score. As a result, they recorded a much-needed bounce back win after losing to Columbus.

Dadonov led the charge in the scoring department. He scored two goals and tallied an assist. He was a +1 in 15:12 of ice time. He was on the power play for 1:48. His second goal was particularly impressive. After winning the faceoff, Mike Hoffman delivered an excellent pass from the side of the net to Dadonov. Dadonov then slammed the puck home for the score to tie the game at two. He was all over the ice on Thursday.

With 14 goals and 15 assists, he now has 29 points on the year. Last year, he had 70 points which amounted to 28 goals and 42 assists.

Dadonov is surging for the Florida Panthers

Dadonov has played well as of late. Prior to being held scoreless against Columbus on Monday night, he put up two assists for two points against Montréal. Against Detroit on December 28, he recorded a goal. Going back even further, he was able to tally a  goal against Carolina on December 21. He has provided some much-needed scoring for the Panthers, and Thursday was exemplary of that.

The Panthers need him to continue playing at a high level, particularly with the second half of the season beginning shortly.  Between Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and, Dadonov, the Panthers have themselves a formidable three-headed monster. With the way Dadonov has been playing, that trio is looking stronger than ever.

The Florida Panthers will be in action again on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop will be at 1:00 PM. It will be intriguing to see if Dadonov can keep up this momentum throughout the course of the game.

Sergei Bobrovsky looking for fresh start against Senators

Sergei Bobrovsky needs to be better for the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers will play their first game of the new year on Thursday night against Ottawa. Hopefully, it will be a bounce-back game for Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He had a rough return to Columbus on Tuesday night.

Bobrovsky gave up four goals on 28 shots in 58:15 of ice time. This marked the third game in a row that he has given up at least four goals. He gave up five to Montréal on December 29 and six the night before against Detroit. He has been struggling as of late. Thursday could be the perfect game for him to turn things around.

The last time he faced Ottawa was on December 16. He was superb in that game. Giving up one goal on 30 shots, he saw 68 minutes of ice time.  For the season, he is first in goals allowed with 96. Carey Price is second in that category with 95.

Sergei Bobrovsky struggling for Florida Panthers

There is no doubt he is struggling. His statistics reflect that. He allows 3.29 goals per game. That is second only to Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.  His save percentage is not exactly terrible, but it’s not where it needs to be either. He carries an .897 save percentage into Thursday’s game. That ranks 10th-worst in the league.

There is no doubt he is struggling right now, and Thursday’s game against Ottawa could be the perfect bounce-back game. The Senators  are eighth-worst in the league at scoring. They have 111 goals on the season, tied with the New York Islanders. In addition, they have the worst power play conversion percentage in the league. They score a goal on 11.2% of their power plays.

Thursday could be the perfect bounce back game for Bobrovsky. The Florida Panthers definitely need him to play better. A win against Ottawa would be a nice place to start.

Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari scoring at rapid rate

The Florida Panthers beat the Dallas Stars by a 7-4 score on Friday night. One of the major reasons why they won was the play of forward Noel Acciari.  He recorded another had trick on Friday night. In doing so , this marked his second game in a row accomplishing the feat.

Making history for the Florida Panthers

The last time a Florida Panther recorded hat tricks in multiple games, the legendary Pavel Bure accomplished the feat. He did so in a stretch from February 10-14, 2002.

In his last two games, Acciari has tallied six goals and two assists. On Friday night, he did it efficiently. He scored his first goal at the 7:26 mark of the second period. He followed that up with another tally rather quickly at the 7:58 mark. On the last goal, he took care of business himself. With the Dallas Stars on a powerplay, he scored his third goal unassisted on what was a shorthanded tally.

It’s fascinating to see him flourish in Florida. Coming from the Boston area, I got to see him a lot when he played for the Bruins. He always seemed to be able to record the timely goal, and he was a big part of the youth movement for Boston while he was there. Signing a three-year contract worth $5 million, he is proving his worth so far.

He’s not the type of player that is going to consistently record back-to-back hat tricks. He is the type of player that is going to give you a consistent  hard-nosed effort every time he is on the ice. Acciari has certainly provided that for the Panthers to this point. The way I see it, his scoring is just a bonus. Locating the puck and being actively involved in plays have been some of his strengths over the past couple of games. The statistics have showed it.

It will be interesting to see how he performs the rest of the way. If he can continue to play like this in the second half of the season, the Florida Panthers will be even more scary.

 

Panthers Snap Skid, Still Looking up in Atlantic Standings

The Florida Panthers ended a three-game losing streak Monday in convincing fashion, dispatching Ottawa 6-1.

Florida (16-12-5, 37 points) moved up to third place in a crowded Atlantic Division which has five teams within four points of each other.

Florida had dropped seven of their last ten games prior and have been disappointing during this long home stand.

Entering Monday’s contest against the Senators, the Panthers have lost four game at home on the stand despite outscoring teams 18-15 in that time.

After two impressive wins, 4-1 over Columbus and 5-1 over San Jose, the Panthers only scored three goals total in those last three losses.

Florida is 24th in the NHL in scoring despite being fifth in shots on goal per game, meaning they are not cashing in on opportunities.

The power play disappeared during the losing spell, Florida had gone 0-for-8 in the last three games before Monday.

While the offense has struggled, the defense has not been much better.

Thankfully the Panthers faced an Ottawa team also looking for answers in what has been a rough season.

The Cats were finally able to cash in with the man advantage, going 1-for-5 on the power play on a goal by Aleksander Barkov (11).

Noel Acciardi notched his first career hat trick, a five goal barrage in the second period put the game on figurative ice.

 

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 out of 30 shots in his sixth consecutive start, while Jonathan Huberdeau had four assists and now has 400 career points in 500 games.

Barkov was held without a point during the Panthers’ latest losing skid, when the captain is on the whole dynamic of the offense changes.

The Panthers have relied on the offense to overcome struggles in net and on the blue line, a complete game like the one Monday should be the blueprint moving forward.

Next up for the Panthers they close out the home stand against the Dallas Stars on Friday.

 

Florida Panthers: Brett Connolly is finding his groove

It’s safe to say that veteran Brett Connolly is making his mark on the Florida Panthers. The well-traveled right-winger has succeeded almost everywhere he’s been. Now, he is making sure that he brings his good fortune to the Florida Panthers.

Connolly had a career year for the Washington Capitals in 2018-19. In 81 games, he recorded 22 goals and 24 assists. Tallying a total of 46 points, he had five game-winning goals.  He cashed in on his big year in the offseason, signing a four-year, $13 million deal on July 1. Given his previous track record, it could have easily been viewed as a risky signing. However, it has appeared to have been a smart move.

Over the last five games, Connolly has really played well for the Florida Panthers. He has five goals and an assist for six points in his last five games. In the team’s most recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, he recorded a goal.

Furthermore, his veteran presence has definitely been an asset on a young team.  He broke into the league in 2011-2012 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. That Lightning group went on several deep playoff runs. He then was traded by Tampa Bay to Boston on March 2, 2015. His Boston tenure was not all that memorable as he suffered a broken hand which caused him to play only nine games for the rest of the 2014-15 season. Although he would go on to play in 71 games the following year, the Bruins certainly did not get the Brett Connolly they were expecting.

A pleasant surprise

Connolly has been a pleasant surprise for Florida because of his track record of not producing a ton of points. If he can at least keep pace with the numbers he is putting up currently, year one of this contract looks like a win for the Panthers. Sometimes, players just need the right situation to succeed in. So far, Connolly has delivered, and his experience may be a key asset as Florida looks to make a playoff push in the second half of the season.

Another Tough Weekend for Most Miami Sports Fans

Many Miami sports fans approach games with cautious optimism, which often turns to utter hopelessness in a blink.

“Ok, UM has a cake walk against FIU. That should be an easy W let’s get it”.

Wrong.

 

“The Panthers have won five of six and the offense is rolling, they’ll keep it going in Carolina”.

Wrong again.

 

We knew the Heat would have a tough one in Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back, but a better performance was still expected.

No matter the actual weekly outcome for the Dolphins you can’t win.

If the Dolphins win, their draft position in April suffers.

If the Dolphins lose, you are summarily reminded how far away they truly are.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend by far belongs to the Miami Hurricanes who fell to Butch Davis and the FIU Panthers 30-24 Saturday.

Perhaps it should be overshadowed by the triumph of Davis and his feisty Panthers who clearly wanted the game more.

 

FIU came out focused and prepared, while the Hurricanes started with their far too common lethargy.

Which quickly turned into a comical attempt at motivating your team that is losing handily to a three touchdown underdog.

 

It was truly a massive setback for a Hurricanes program that was seeming to turn the corner.

 

For the Miami Heat, their loss at Philadelphia is not overly concerning.

What is a bit disconcerting is that the 76ers starting five outscored Miami’s 90-32.

The starting group for the Heat had a plus/minus as follows:

Leonard (-26)

Butler (-31)

Robinson (-26)

Adebayo (-26)

Nunn (-16)

The Heat put themselves out of contention early before finally putting up a fight in the final quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Philadelphia had four players in double figures led by none other than Josh Richardson with 32 points. Miami’s typically stellar 3-point defense was off, the 76ers hit 14-of-29 (48.3%) from deep.

Fortunately for the Heat this type of game shouldn’t linger long, some home cooking when they host the lowly Hornets Monday should get them right.

The Florida Panthers have been a great story early in the season with exciting, high scoring games being a regular event.

Coming off of three straight wins in which they scored a total of 14 goals, the Cardiac Cats had one of their worst offensive games of the year in a 4-2 loss at Carolina Saturday.

The 23 shots on goal for the Panthers was their second lowest total of the season.

Ironically their season high of 50 was also against Carolina, a 6-2 loss in October.

The goal scoring slump would continue Sunday despite a 45-26 shot advantage for the Panthers in a 5-2 home loss to Buffalo.

Florida has scored two or fewer goals in seven games this season, all losses.

With shaky goaltending again this season, the Panthers’ offense has to carry the burden most nights.

Next, and perhaps least surprising, the Miami Dolphins went into Cleveland and dropped to 2-9 on the season by a final score of 41-24.

The Browns jumped all over the Miami secondary and took a 28-0 lead before the Dolphins responded.

Miami would shrink the deficit to 28-17 before Cleveland would pull away in the fourth quarter.

Jarvis Landry (10 catches, 148 yards, 2 TD) had some extra venom for his former team.

 

Not surprisingly, Baker Mayfield (24/41, 327 yards, 3 TD, INT) picked apart a depleted Dolphins’ secondary most of the way.

The Dolphins will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

To put a bow on this misery package, the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team was bounced from the Charleston Classic Sunday 80-55 against UConn.

The Hurricanes reached the third-place consolation game after losing to Florida 78-58 Friday, meaning Miami was outscored by 45 points in the back-to-back losses.

And with that, another roller coaster weekend for Miami sports fans is in the books.

Follow us on Twitter for all things Miami sports @5ReasonsSports.

Photo courtesy of Tony Capobianco.

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov providing consistency to young group

Aleksander Barkov is having a heck of a season for the Florida Panthers to this point. Not only that, he is proving he can be a player of consistency. Last year, he recorded 35 goals and 61 assists. Totaling 96 points, that marked his second season in a row with at least 70 points. This year, he is on pace for another 70-point season.

With seven goals and 22 assists, he currently has 29 points on the year. There is a lot more beyond the individual numbers. Barkov is getting his points in bunches. Only Jonathan Huberdeau (30) has more points on the year

A scoring machine for the Florida Panthers

Barkov has recorded seven points in his last five games, beginning in Boston on November 12. Scoring two goals in that contest, he was an instrumental figure in the Panthers’ comeback win. Thursday night against Anaheim, he had another great game, recording two assists for two points. As a result, Barkov helped the Panthers secure another comeback win.

In 13 games in the month of October, he did not record a point four times. So far this month, he has been held scoreless only once.  In addition to his even-strength work, Barkov has been very effective on the power play. He has four goals on the year, and nine points in total. The four goals are good enough for third on the ream in that category.

It doesn’t matter what situation you put him in, he is going to be successful. On a young, resilient team like the Florida Panthers, his veteran experience is necessary. So far, he has accolades to prove it. He was named an All-Star in the 2018 season and won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy as a result of his excellent sportsmanship.

Goals are just a part of the equation

Watching him play is fascinating. He moves well with and without the puck, and his  snap shot is deadly. Particularly when screened, goaltenders have an even more difficult time picking it up. He has precision with his shot and is able to “wow” with his stick handling-skills. It seems routine to Florida Panthers fans, but it’s truly fascinating to watch him do it in real-time.

Hopefully, he can keep up his high level of play. The Florida Panthers have been clawing their way to wins. Led by Barkov and others, they have been a treat to watch, and have put the rest of the National Hockey League on notice.

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.