Tag Archive for: hockey

The Florida Panthers punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final

SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers are on their way to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in four games. 


The Panthers took Game 4 by a final score of 4-3 off of Matthew Tkachuk’s game winner with four seconds left in regulation. 


It was a wild night at FLA Live for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.   


Holding a 3-0 lead, the Panthers had a chance to close out the series at home Wednesday night — which would have booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals.  


Like all the games in this series, tonight’s went down to the wire. 


It didn’t take the Panthers long to crack open this game and get the crowd off their feet.


Less than a minute into the game, Frederik Andersen made a big first save on an Anthony Duclair one-timer, however Andersen lost track of the puck after the save. Duclair picked up his own rebound and put it past Andersen, putting the Panthers up 1-0 just 41 seconds into the game. 


A little over halfway through the first, the Panthers would take a two-goal.


As the Panthers second power play of the game dwindled down, a broken up shot Aaron Ekblad shot found its way to Matthew Tkachuk in front of the net.


Tkachuk quickly fed the puck through Andersen’s five-hole, putting the Panthers up 2-0, 10:23 into the game. 


The desperate Hurricanes didn’t let Florida’s multi-goal lead last long. Just a few minutes after Tkachuk’s goal, Carolina got one back.  

A shot from near the corner landed in the blue pain behind a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky. Paul Stasny beat Bobrovsky to the loose puck, cutting the Panthers lead in half with just under seven minutes to go in the period.


The three goal first period tonight was a completely different script from the 1-0 Game 3 we saw on Monday night. 


After an eventful opening 20 minutes, the Panthers took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room. 


As the teams took the ice for the second Carolina was able to get this game even just three minutes into the period.  


Similar to Tkachuk’s goal in the first, a Carolina shot from up high got broken up in front of goal before landing on the stick of Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen shot the puck over an out of position Bobrovsky, tying the game at 2-2.


Just like that, Florida’s two-goal lead was gone.


With Carolina’s two unanswered goals, the building wasn’t quiet, but it definitely didn’t have the same energy as it did in the first. 


That was a problem that fan favorite Ryan Lomberg was able to solve. 9:49 into the second period, the Panthers fourth line executed one of the  nicest passing plays you’ll see all postseason. 

Lomberg started the play by dishing the puck to Eric Staal down low, who quickly spun it around his body to a wide-open Colin White in front of the Canes net. Rather than forcing a handcuffed shot, White calmly slid the puck over to Lomberg — who tapped in the go ahead goal. Florida went up 3-2, and FLA Live Arena went crazy as you’d expect. 


Lomberg’s goal would be the final one of the period, due in large part to some big saves by Sergei Bobrovsky. As the period came to an end, ‘BOB-BY’ chants echoed through the sold out arena from the Panthers faithful. 


Their team went into the break with a one-goal lead — and 20 minutes away from the Stanley Cup Finals. 


Florida held on to their lead for most of the third, but with 3:22 left, Carolina kept their season alive. 


Jesper Fast put away the game tying goal, and  overtime looked to be on the horizon in Sunrise. 


But the hockey gods seemed to not want extra hockey. 


With just 57 seconds left in regulation, Carolina captain Jordan Staal was sent to the box — giving Florida a last minute power play. 


A goal would mean a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the other option would be another OT game… Matthew Tkachuk said ‘bus in 10’. 


The Panthers star forward came around the net, held out Andersen and put this series to bed. 


With 4.9 seconds remaining, the Florida Panthers took the lead — and the series. 


Florida will have to await the winner of the Vegas-Dallas series to see who their final opponent of the season will be. Vegas currently leads Dallas 3-0.

Five Takeaways from Panthers’ dominating win over Canadiens

SUNRISE: The Florida Panthers put a close to their 2022 at home tonight with a dominant 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

The Panthers will play Friday night in Carolina before starting the new year at home against the New York Rangers.


Here’s tonight’s takeaways: 


Barkov returns with a career-night

The Panthers were without captain Aleksaner Barkov for three games after he was injured Dec. 17 in New Jersey.


In his first game back since the injury, Barkov did not wait long to put his stamp on the game. 2:37 into the first, Barkov took a point-shot from Gustav Forsling off the leg, and into the Habs net. 


Later in the period, with the Panthers on the power play, Barkov let a shot fly from the circle and buried it past Montreal goalie Sam Montembeault. 


Still in the first period, with Barkov now on hat trick watch, No. 16 put away his third goal of the period, and the hats rained from the rafters of FLA Live Arena.


Barkov finished his night back with 5 points, tying his career-high.


The boys are back in town – Gudas, Barkov, Ekblad

A few weeks ago it seemed like every night there was another player coming out of the Panthers lineup, while AHL call ups were coming in.


After a few additional days without a game following the holiday break, the Panthers got some of their big boys back; Barkov, Ekblad and Gudas.


Barkov had five points tonight, while Ekblad and Gudas shaped what has often been a depleted blue line this season. 


“The guy had no points but Radko Gudas has a huge impact on that game tonight in terms of the minutes we have to play the other defenseman,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “Having those guys come back, it felt a little bit like the first game of the season in some ways, so there’s an excitement going out.”


Let the power play bells ring

With Florida having what was as close to a full lineup as possible tonight, they had all their top guns out there on power play unit 1. 


The top unit delivered tonight, scoring on three of their attempts of the game, on goals from Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk (x2). 

With Montreal also having luck tonight on the power play, these goals were important for Florida. 


Matthew Tkachuk increases his team lead in points

It was a quiet few days for Matthew Tkachuk as the Panthers forward was going through his worst scoring drought of the season… three games. 


Tkachuk made up for lost time tonight with four points, including two goals on the power play, right in front of the net.


“I think he was raised right to be at the net,” Aleksander Barkov said. “He knows where to be and what to do there, so it’s great to have that type of guy on the team.”


The 25-year-old now has team-high 44 points in just 33 games this season.


Tonight’s game felt a lot more like last year’s Panthers team

The 2021-2022 Panthers scored more goals than any team in the 2000’s. This year’s team however hasn’t been able to run away with games like they did last year.


Florida had a jump in their step from puck-drop and it looked like they were hungrier on the puck than Montreal. 


Led by Barkov’s first period hat trick and an early second period goal by Matthew Tkachuk, Florida was in the driver’s seat.


The icing on the cake was an extremely dominating third period by the Cats, where they scored three goals while preventing Montreal from generating anything around Bobrovsky even-strength.  


The night ended with a mid third period Pepas appearance, a seven goal performance and a “we want 10” chant from the Sunrise crowd.  

Five Takeaways from Panthers’ loss to Devils

SUNRISE:  Two days after losing 7-3 in Boston, the Panthers dropped their second game in a row to the New Jersey Devils 4-2 at FLA Live Arena.


The visiting Devils were able to snap their six game losing streak, while the Panthers have dropped three of their last four games at home. 


Here’s tonight’s takeaways:


Eric Staal scores in consecutive games

This December has been a good one for Eric Staal.


The veteran forward has tallied 8 points in 11 games this month. In the 16 previous games, he failed to get a single point on the scoresheet. 


After signing with the team towards the end of October, the Panthers have had to rely on his services frequently with all the injuries they have suffered. It was a rough start to his Panthers career, however his recent production in the stat column has been fairly consistent heading into the holiday break


Florida gets Anton Lundell back  

The 21-year-old center has missed the last nine games due to a non-COVID illness. Tonight was the first game Lundell has played since Dec. 1 in Vancouver. 


The Finn didn’t seem to have any issue jumping back into the flow of things tonight. He played 14 minutes and was able to get on the scoresheet with an assist on Eetu Luostarinen’s goal.


“[It] felt great, it’s been a really long time. Tough time to be out,” Lundell said. “I’m finally happy that I’m able to join the team.”


He was also penalized with his first career NHL fight, though Lundell wasn’t sure if he’d count it as a tilt. 


“I don’t know if it counts as a fight or a wrestling match but whatever,” he added. 


Mackenzie Blackwood flipped the script of the game with key saves in the third

The Devils goaltender ended the night with 34 saves on 36 shots. 


The Panthers really peppered him around the front of goal, however he stood tall to keep it a one goal game when the Devils were trailing 2-1. 


He was able to make a flashy glove save on Ryan Lomberg in front of his goal. If that went in, the Panthers would have taken a two goal lead.


Less than a minute after that big save, the Devils went the other way and tied the game of of Jesper Bratt’s second goal of the game. 


With the Panthers down 3-2, they pulled the goalie for an extra attacker in the dying minutes of the third. The Cats had chances in high-scoring areas, but Blackwood slammed the door and the Devils put away the game with an empty netter. 


Sam Bennett’s puck control game was on full display

A big standout for me tonight was Sam Bennett’s composure on the puck. 


As the Panthers moved up the ice in transition, Bennett was really good at weaving around the Devil’s players to open up the ice. 


When Eetu Luostarinen scored to put the Panthers up 2-1 in the second, Bennett diced through the neutral zone, chipped the puck to himself on the boards, avoided a check and spun into open ice to hit a streaking Luostarinen. 


A huge part of Bennett’s game is his skating ability with the puck. That was evident tonight. 


Eetu Luostarinen gets one goal closer to surpassing his career-high 

It’s been a sort of breakout year for 24-year-old Eetu Luostarinen. 


He played the majority of last season as the fourth line center, which meant his ice time wasn’t ideal to showcase his skills. 


This season he was pushed up to the top-9 as a winger. With the increased ice time and role on the team, Luostarinen has shined. 


Last year, he finished the season with 9 goals in 78 games. In his 34th game of this season, Luostarinen buried his 8th.


He’s just one goal away from equaling his career-high goal total and we aren’t at the halfway point of the season yet. Luostarinen is on pace to shatter last year’s goal total. 

Five Takeaways from Panthers’ loss to Penguins

SUNRISE: The Panthers were back at home on Thursday night to faceoff against the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins, who came to Sunrise riding a six-game win streak.


Backstopped by a strong goaltending performance and a multi-point night from their captain Sidney Crosby, the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-2, extending their win streak to seven.


Here’s tonight’s takeaways: 

The illness bug continues to bite the Panthers

Injuries aside, because this team is heavily affected by it, the Panthers have been getting hammered by the “non-COVID” illness bug. 


Florida has seen many of their big time players miss time due to illness over the last few weeks. 


Last game Carter Verhaeghe was out of the lineup; Anton Lundell hasn’t played since Dec. 1 in Vancouver, and Spencer Knight just returned to the lineup tonight after nine days. 

The Panthers had to play tonight’s game without their leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk, who is out with… an illness.


Florida had to roll 11 forwards tonight, even with today’s call up of Aleksi Heponiemi. 


Even strength scoring belonged to the Panthers

In a 4-2 loss, Florida came out on top in one category – 5-on-5 goals. 


Both of Florida’s goals tonight came at even-strength. Their opponent on the other hand, didn’t score a single one of their goals at 5-on-5.


All four of the Penguins’ goals came when they were either up a man, or down.

Pittsburgh scored twice on the power play, once shorthanded and iced the game with an empty net goal when Florida had an extra attacker. 


Tonight was a goalie battle

For fans of the man in the crease, this was the game to watch. Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky both battled hard to keep their team’s in the game.


For the visiting team, Jarry was the star of the game for Pittsburgh. The Pens goaltender had 32 saves on the night and kept the Panthers special teams off the scoresheet. 


Florida had a flurry of good looks in the second period, but Jarry slammed the door shut, as Pittsburgh took that period 2-0. 


On the other end of the ice, Sergei Bobrovsky started his fifth straight game, finishing the night with 35 saves and three goals against, two of which came from a Pittsburgh powerplay. 


Both goaltenders saw multiple odd-man rushes tonight and respectively followed many of those chances with big time saves.  


Ryan Lomberg played a solid game with a depleted forward lineup

Ryan Lomberg always puts in a valiant effort no matter how much ice time he gets. With 11 forwards in the lineup, two of which just came from the AHL over the last few days, the Panthers played Lomberg over 14 minutes tonight.


The 5 ‘9 forward started the game off hot with his linemate Eric Staal. The pair seemed to have a lot of chemistry with each other tonight and it paid off as they connected for the first goal of the game.

A falling Staal was able to get the puck towards goal before Lomberg was able to beat Jarry up high on a tough angle. 


Lomberg plays a fast, hard fore-checking game and tonight it was evident on how much work he does along the boards and corners.


Florida lost the game on special teams

While winning the even strength game tonight, Florida’s downfall was their special teams performance.


With the lineup having so many guys going in and out this week, the Cats had to do lots of line juggling for the special teams units. 


“We have had a different power play unit pretty much every game for the last four,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurcice said. “Start putting that together at five o’clock because the guys are coming to our lineup so late.”


On the penalty kill, Florida conceded two goals as the Penguins finished the night 2/3 on the power play. 


Florida had three power play chances of their own, however not only did they go 0/3 on the  man-advantage, they also gave up a shorthanded goal to Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, which tied the game at one early in the second period.


The special teams battle killed the Panthers who played a relatively strong even-strength game. 

Five Takeaways from Panthers’ win over Blue Jackets

SUNRISE: It’s been a struggle as of late in Pantherland. Florida had dropped three of their last four games, as they sat in the bottom half of the tight Atlantic Division standings entering Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.


The Panthers were able to  shake off their shaky play from last week tonight, defeating the Blue jackets 4-0, despite missing key players on both sides of the puck.


Here’s the takeaways:

Grigori Denisenko makes his season debut

When Florida took Grigori Denisenko 15th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, they would have liked to see their first-round pick be a consistent force in the lineup a few years down the line. 


While Florida’s next two first-round picks, Spencer Knight (2019) and Anton Lundell (2020) have both become relied upon players in the lineup, Denisenko has only skated in nine NHL games so far.


Earlier today the Panthers announced that they recalled Denisenko from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL). With Carter Verhaeghe out of the lineup tonight, the 22-year-old Denisenko made his season debut. This is only the second NHL game he has played in the last two seasons. 


Denisenko finished the night with 13:14 TOI – while getting an opportunity to play on power play unit 2. 


“I was fine with his game,” HC Paul Maurice said. “He got a bunch of minutes and he held water and was fine.” 


Multiple Panthers leave the game with injuries

 After playing just 1:06 in the first period, Colin White’s night was done. 


The Panthers announced during the first intermission that the forward would not return to the game due to an upper-body injury, leaving the Panthers with 11 forwards for the rest of the night. 


Florida were already short-handed upfront entering the game, with Anton Lundell (illness) and Carter Verhaeghe (illness) being out of the lineup, in addition to Patric Hornqvist and Anthony Duclair (hasn’t played this season) still being on LTIR.


To add salt to the wound, early in the second period, Chris Tiernery took a hard hit near center ice, resulting in him heading down the Panthers tunnel. He would also not return to the game. 


The injury woes continue to hurt the Panthers this season. Florida has had to make multiple call ups in the last two weeks, with the likes of Zac Dalpe, Chris Tierney, Matt Kiersted, Aleksi Heponiemi, Grigori Denisenko and Alex Lyon all going between Charlotte and Florida over the last 10 days. Depending on the availability of those who were out of commission tonight, there could be some more moves coming. 


Matthew Tkachuk, the multi-point king

The most consistent player on the Panthers season has been the starboy Matthew Tkachuk. 


The team leader in points added to his impressive season total, getting a goal and an assist tonight. In 28 games, Tkachuk has 39 points. 


On top of that, he extended his multi-point game total this season to 14. 


With the Panthers forwards unit being plagued with injuries, Tkachuk has been able to contribute consistently, no matter who is on his line. 


Sergei Bobrovsky gets the shutout

Bob got the net again tonight, making it his fourth straight start in goal. 


Facing his former team, Bobrovsky stopped all 22 shots he faced in his first shutout of the season. 


“I felt good, it’s a big, big two points for us… I thought the guys did a great job, they shut them down, they didn’t give them anything,” Bobrovsky said. 

Spencer Knight skated this morning with the team but was not in the lineup as he has been out with an illness for the last two weeks. The Panthers practice tomorrow ahead of their Thursday night game against Pittsburgh, so there is a possibility Bob gets the night off, with Knight getting back into the net.


Gustav Forsling hits a career milestone 

After being placed on waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes before the start of the 2020-2021 NHL season, Gustav Forsling has completely transformed his career with the Florida Panthers.


Tonight, Forsling assisted on Brandon Monotur’s goal, giving the Swedish defenseman his 100th career NHL point, in his 266th game.


Forsling very well could be the best Bill Zito acquisition.  Forsling flew under the radar during his three season spell with the Chicago Blackhawks to start his NHL career. However, after three seasons in Sunrise, Forsling has emerged as a legitimate top pair defenseman, playing top minutes every night against the best players in the world.

The Continuing Rise in Hockey Popularity Worldwide

As a winter sport, ice hockey has defied all odds to become one of the most popular and richest among the professional sports leagues around the world.

Despite a relatively limited fanbase because of the seasonal nature of its playing field, ice hockey is in the elite company of Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) in terms of unimpeded growth, commercial viability, and future. 

A study conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business has revealed that National Hockey League (NHL) fans in North America are the most educated and affluent among all the four major leagues in the United States and Canada, outpacing even the rich crowd following the PGATour. 

Ice hockey is the top sport in Canada, the birthplace of organized hockey competitions, where it outranks MLB, NFL, and NBA in popularity and fan support.  This attraction translates into higher gate receipts, more advertising revenues, and more lucrative merchandising and commercial rights for NHL, at least in the Great White North.    

NHL’s largest demographic fan base consists of males aged 18 to 34, so organizers have shifted to digital technology to reach this computer-savvy market and promote game-related activities. including sports betting. Seen on https://www.oddsshark.com/nhl/computer-picks, for example, is a good illustration to how real-time online insights are used to promote the sport and sports betting on the side.

The NHL was launched in Montreal on November 26, 1917, to take over the operations of the National Hockey Association (NHA), its predecessor, which had been organized in Ontario in 1909.  It assumed NHA’s place as one of the leagues that competed for the Stanley Cup.  

After a series of disbandment and league mergers, the NHL was left as the only remaining league competing for the Stanley Cup in 1926. 

As NHL, the league had only four Canadian teams until 1924, when US-based Boston Bruins joined the league.  From 1942 to 1967, the league operated with only six teams, which were collectively called the “Original Six” – Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs


More teams have been added since then, with the league expanding its membership to 18 teams by 1974, and five more added five years later.   Today, the NHL plays with 32 teams.

On the international scene, ice hockey is played in many countries across the northern and western hemispheres with icy cold winter seasons, including Finland, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Latvia.  

Ice hockey became an Olympic event during the 1920 Summer Olympics hosted by Belgium before it permanently moved to the Winter Olympics in 1924, where it has become a regular event to this day. 

But of course, just like in any other event in the Olympics, ice hockey playing nations have to undergo a qualifying process to get into the Winter Games.  Thus, only a select number of countries see action in the Olympics, with many players competing in the NHL and playing for their respective countries in the prestigious quadrennial games. 

While the popularity of ice hockey in Canada, the United States, and many countries in Europe is continually on the rise, it hasn’t gained ground in Asia and many tropical countries across the globe. So far, only wintry countries from North America and Europe have won Olympic medals in ice hockey.

In the Philippines, for example, the sport is played on artificial ice rinks in giant malls, where costs are prohibitive and thus adoption rate is low.    

Other tropical countries in Asia, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand, are facing similar challenges. Thus they are unable to develop a stronger core to develop young players and prepare them for high-level competitions. 

On a positive note, three Asian countries with winter seasons are slowly developing a credible ice hockey program by collaborating with each other to form a league known as the Asia League Ice Hockey.  They have also invited teams from Russia and allowed the use of imports, including those with playing experience from the NHL, to increase the league’s competitive level. 

As former hosts of three Winter Olympic editions, Japan and unified Korea have helped raise higher public awareness and appreciation for the game and increase adoption rate.  The Chinese are certainly on the same page when it won the bid to the Winter Games next year. 

The NHL is not without its share of players with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino ancestries.  Among them are Nick Suzuki (Japanese), Kailer Yamamoto (Japanese),  Jason Richardson (Filipino), Mathew Dumba (Filipino),  Jett Woo (Chinese), Austin Wong (Chinese), and Richard Park (Korean).


Just like football and basketball, the sport of ice hockey is slowly, but surely, finding its place in the hearts of many people around the world.  


Panthers fall to Lightning in physical rematch

At the end of the first period, the Florida Panthers were probably at least satisfied with their performance. They were scoreless, but so were the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

At the end of the second, the Panthers were down 4-0 en route to a demoralizing 6-1 loss on Saturday night at the BB&T Center. 

The Lightning suffered an embarrassing 5-2 loss on Thursday night to the Panthers, their Central Division rivals. Apparently, they had had enough. Even without captain Steven Stamkos, Tampa was able to put together a litany of scoring chances in the second period that Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was simply unable to stop. Conversely, the Cats couldn’t find a way to get past Andrei Vasilevskiy, who totaled 33 total saves for a .971 save percentage. 

The lone Panthers goal of the night came in the third period when Brett Connolly and Frank Vatrano teamed up to slide one past Andrei Vasilevskiy. But the celebration was short-lived. Less than a minute later Tampa’s Alexander Volkov scored the Lightning’s fifth of the night, effectively squashing any desperate hopes at an unlikely but not completely impossible comeback for Florida.

“We lost our composure when they got ahead,” head coach Joel Quenville said. “The game just got away from us.”

Both Radko Gudas and Patric Hornqvist made their own attempts to turn the tide by dropping gloves with Blake Coleman and Yanni Gourde respectively but all efforts fell short. MacKenzie Weegar also scuffled with Killorn late in the first and the two exchanged words even after moving to the box. 

The loss keeps the Panthers (8-2-2) at the second position in the Central Division behind the Lightning (10-2-1). They play the third game of the series in Tampa Bay on Monday.

Panthers top Flyers, move to 2nd in the Atlantic

The Florida Panthers entered Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a 10-5-5 record and sitting third in the Atlantic division, two points clear of the Buffalo Sabres.

With about 2:30 minutes left in the third period, Mike Hoffman put in the game clinching empty net goal to give the Panthers a 5-2 win, improving their record to an impressive 11-5-5 and now 2nd in the Atlantic.

This marks one of the best starts in franchise history. This start is happening thanks to a high attacking offense who ranked 2nd in the NHL in goals entering play.

“We played well enough to get 2 points,” Panthers forward Brett Connolly said post game. “Guys are starting to get their roles 21 games into the season, and it’s been fun to be part of the team.”

The one downside so far for the Panthers is their big splash free agent goalie, Sergei Brobvosky, who is off to the worst start of his career. Entering play, he had a .882 save percentage, which ranked 57th in the league. He’s also allowed 54 goals so far this season, which is the most amongst goalies. Bobrovsky seems to be on the rebound after saving 35 of 37 shots faced.

The Panthers were in need of a solid 60 minute effort going into the game and after an early goal by Travis Sanheim,  the Panthers started to get the game in their control, dominating puck possession in the first and second period.

The Panthers had a comfortable 4-1 lead most of the way through the second period, until the Flyers’ highly touted prospect Morgan Frost got one past Brobvosky in his NHL debut.

The Panthers finish off the homestand Thursday, then go on the road for a couple games before coming home again for a franchise record nine-game homestand.



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.

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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.”