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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.

 

 

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

Florida Panthers 2019 Season Preview

The Florida Panthers 2019 season kicks off October 3rd with high expectations. Will this be the year the Cats break through?

With all the talk of tanking consuming local sports media, the Florida Panthers quietly enter the 2019 season poised for a playoff run.

The Panthers could in fact be the most successful team in South Florida this year.

They look to build off a 2018 season which showed a lot of promise but spiraled in the wrong direction late.

A few major changes took place for the Panthers in the offseason, most notably the addition of three time Stanley Cup winning head coach Joel Quinneville.

Dale Tallon replaced Bob Boughner after two mediocre seasons which saw them miss the playoffs both years.

Quinneville obviously brings a proven track record of success to the organization which was much needed after the team plateaued under Boughner.

Swan Song for the Great Strombone

 

 

 

Injuries played a factor for Luongo and trying to rehab and get into shape for another season was not in the plans for the Great Strombone.

To fill the void in net the Panthers swung for the fences, signing two time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky to a 7-year deal in July.

Despite his success, Bobrovsky is still seeking his first Stanley Cup and is excited for the potential of his new team.

“It’s all about the Cup. That’s my main goal,” he said July 2. “That’s what I want to do, so that’s why I am here now. I believe in this team, I believe in this group, and I really think that we can do something special in here.” From NHL.com

Bobrovsky led the NHL with nine shutouts last year with Columbus and his 2.46 career goals-against-average (GAA) is a huge improvement over the 3.16 GAA the Panthers goalies put up last year. That mark ranked them 28th in the league, simply not good enough.

Where the Panthers really struggled last year was on the blue line, ranking 28th in the NHL with 273 goals allowed. Communication was a huge problem for the Cats defense last year, look for that area to improve under the structure of Quenneville.

Even an average defense should be enough for Florida to have a successful season due to an elite forward group led by superstar center Aleksander Barkov.

Casual fans may not recognize Barkov on the street, but he may be the best athlete in his respective sport locally.

Keep the Power on

One area of the team that should continue to be a bright spot is the power play, a unit that ranked second in the NHL with the man advantage last year.

Barkov led the Panthers with 96 points (35 goals, 61 assists) and his fellow forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman also eclipsed 30 goals on the year. Florida ranked in the top ten in both total goals (264) and goals per game (3.22) and the main core on the front line returns in 2019.

These three top forwards along with Evgenii Davodov played in all 82 games last year, hopefully they can stay close to that level of health this season. Davodov had a breakout season in his second year back from the KHL with 28 goals and 42 assists.

It may take time for the power play unit to click with a new coaching system in place, but the continuity and chemistry in that group should make the transition much easier.

Frank Vatrano was another spark for the Florida offense and finished fifth on the team with 24 goals.

Defend at all Costs

On the flip side of the coin for the Panthers is their defensive group which struggled mightily last year. As mentioned the Panthers were quite generous to the opponent on defense, allowing odd man rushes and missing assignments in their own zone at an alarming rate.

Despite an elite power play that unit had their own warts, allowing 13 shorthanded goals which was tied for the second-worst mark league wide. They also converted only three short handed goals of their own, tied for worst in the NHL.

The penalty kill (81.3%) was a top 10 group however, so special teams is an area of the team that could carry them in stretches throughout the year.

NHL Ironman Keith Yandle returns along with Aaron Ekblad as the top defense pairing, Yandle was especially effective on the power play and led the Panthers with 32 assists with an extra attacker. Ekblad was consistent again with 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) and has hit double digits in goals in each of his five seasons. He was also one of only four Panthers with a positive +/- for the year, Florida will need more players on the right side of that stat to make it anywhere this season.

With upgrades on the bench and in net the Panthers are in a great position to make a playoff push, perhaps even win a few series. They have to start fast, Florida lost eight out of their first ten games last year and could not overcome that early deficit.

The Panthers must also avoid multiple long losing streaks, they suffered both a seven-game and six-game slide in the second half which essentially put them out of the playoff picture.

Quenneville should be a steadying influence for a young and talented team, as a proven winner he should earn immediate respect from his team.

Follow us on Twitter for more Florida Panthers news @SportsWaveDave and @5ReasonsSports.

 

Florida Panthers open camp with high hopes

The Florida Panthers open training camp today as they prepare for a season in which they have higher expectations than ever.

At a time in Miami sports when is the lowest it’s been in years,  with the Dolphins tanking, Marlins rebuilding and the Heat coming off a half a decade of mediocrity, the Panthers have a chance to capture the city.

They started their off-season with a coaching hire splash by hiring legendary coach Joel Quenneville, signing tip-free agent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and other quality free agents. The signings have the Panthers at almost being a “cap team” for the first in quite a while, being just 500k under the cap.

The signings have caused a spark of interest from fans, season tickets have peaked to over 14,000 sold, compared to right around 3,000 when new ownership took over.

 

The Panthers made the playoffs in 2016 and have missed the playoffs every season since. The past two seasons the Panthers have had a common theme, start slow and finish strong. The Panthers know that this year has to be different.

Dale Tallon says that this is a deep town that has everyone competing for a roster spot. Tallon, when talking to the media, emphasized the importance of organizational depth saying “Inter-competition leads to success.”

Tallon believes this team doesn’t have a ceiling.

The players met with the media today and all repeated the same message on how they appreciated management spending the money and filling the needs. Panthers’ captain Sahsa Barkov says: “It was perfect. Nothing more you can expect from Dale.”

The Miami Dolphins look like the worst team in local history

The Miami Dolphins haven’t been able to do much right in the past couple of decades.

But this tanking thing?

They’re naturals.

Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was so complete that the score is misleading. If Lamar Jackson had stayed in for the fourth quarter, the Ravens were headed to the 70s. As it was, this was the highest score by a Dolphins opponent in a regular season contest in the franchise’s increasingly ignominious history.

And here’s the thing: it can and will get worse.

The Dolphins — what’s wrong with Minkah Fitzpatrick — couldn’t handle the Ravens’ pedestrian receivers Sunday. Next Sunday? Tom Brady comes to town with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman. And it’s not like there are lots of Dolphins young players with high upsides who will improve drastically as the season progresses.

So there’s a real chance this could be the worst non-expansion team in South Florida sports history.

Yes, the Miami Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 under Cam “Thumbs This Way” Cameron.

But they were outscored on average only 27-17 per game.

The Panthers have been middling to bad for a while. But they’ve never been the equivalent of 1-15 or even 2-14 NFL bad.

So it’s just the 2007-08 Miami Heat (15-67 after Dwyane Wade and everyone else got hurt and the Heat raided the D-League roster) and the 1998 Florida Marlins (54-108 after H. Wayne Huizenga sold off a World Series winner).

But this?

This has the looks of something historic.

What will the Miami Dolphins do well this season? Throw? No. They can’t protect. Run? No. They can’t block. Tackle? That appears foreign to them. Cover? Ravens ran wild through the secondary.

And as it gets more and more hopeless, more veteran players will check out, interested only in their checks. More fans will stay home — tanking sounds better in principle than it feels in practice.

Prepare for the worst.

It’s what many of you wanted.

And the Dolphins will deliver.