News

Panthers top Flyers, move to 2nd in the Atlantic

The Panthers entered Tuesday’s game with a 10-5-5 record and sitting third in the Atlantic division, 2 points clear of Buffalo. 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 Tuesday.

The one downside so far for the Panthers is their big splash free agent goalie, Sergei Brobvosky is off to the worst start of his career. Entering play Tuesday, he had a .882 save%, which ranked 57th in the league, he’s also allowed 54 goals so far this season, which is the most amongst goalies.

The Panthers were in need of a solid 60 minute effort going into Tuesday’s 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 way through the second period, until Flyers highly touted prospect Morgan Frost got one past Sergei Brobvosky in his NHL debut.

With about 2 and a half 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.

Sergei Bobrovsky saves 35 of 37 shots faced and let up just 2 goals on the game.

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

Panthers finish off this home-stand Thursday then go on the road for a couple games before coming home again for a franchise record 9 game home-stand.

 

 

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:

 

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.

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.

 

 

Florida Panthers

Bobrovsky Signing Continues Great Offseason for Florida Panthers

Lost in the wake of NBA free agency, the Florida Panthers have had a tremendous offseason thus far.

The Panthers displayed Heat-like savvy this week signing elite goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

That has been overshadowed of course by the events over the last 24 hours consuming this market.

Perhaps rightfully so.

NHL officials however should look at the timing of their free agency period, which aligns almost exactly with the NBA.

In signing Bobrovsky to a 7-year, 70-million dollar contract, the Cats mean business.

Only Carey Price makes more average salary in terms of goaltenders.

After bringing in veteran head coach Joel Quenneville, Dale Tallon has reloaded the Panthers from the goal line up.

 

The retirement of Roberto Luongo left an immediate need in net for the Cats.

Bobrovsky brings an elite goalie in right away to fill the void, and expectations will be high in Sunrise this year.

A two time Vezina Trophy winner, Bobrovsky will stabilize a position that was troubling last year.

Florida ranked 28th in the NHL  in both total goals allowed (273) and goal per game allowed (3.33) last year.

Bobrovsky spent the last seven seasons in Columbus and in addition to the two Vezina wins is a five-time NHL All-Star.

He has a 255-133-37 record over his nine-year career, with a 2.46 GAA and .919 SV% along with 38 shutouts.

Florida also added what many consider the best goalie to enter the NHL draft recently in Spencer Knight, watch out for a profile on him soon.

More Solid Additions

In front of Bobrovsky the Panthers solidified their blue line corps adding veteran defenseman Anton Stralman who spent the last five seasons across the state in Tampa Bay.

Stralman was a major part of the defense on the Lightning and the 12-year vet will add much needed experience and stability to the Panthers’ blue line.

Florida also added forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari in a busy stretch this week.

Make sure to follow on Twitter @SportsWaveDave for the latest in Miami sports.

Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo – Swan Song for the Strombone

In typical fashion,  Florida Panthers longtime goaltender Roberto Luongo announced his retirement Wednesday.

 

Ok, he actually used a slightly more serious platform to mark the occasion.

In an honest and open letter to Florida Panthers and NHL fans, Luongo voiced his decision with great sincerity.

Reactions around hockey and in the world of sports have been pouring in.

 

Luongo exits the NHL after an illustrious 19-year career, leaving an impressive if complex legacy.

He came into the league as a 20-year old rookie for the New York Islanders, who did not feel he was the one.

Instead, Luongo was quickly traded to Florida after New York drafted Rick Dipietro first overall the following year. That deal also brought over franchise great Oli Jokinen.

In 2004 during his fourth season with the Panthers he began his ascension towards greatness, earning a second team All-Star nod and finishing third in the Vezina Trophy race.

As quickly as the tide was rising on Luongo’s career, the winds of change would soon alter the course of not one, but two franchises.

After the 2005-06 season, Luongo would be traded to the Vancouver Canucks, starting a new chapter and earning a place in another team’s record books.

Potential met in Vancouver

Luongo would not disappoint in his debut season for the Canucks, posting a 47-22-6 record with a stellar .921 and 2.28 GAA respectively.

He would earn another second team All-Star selection and finish second in both the Hart and Veniza trophy races. His 252 wins and 38 shutouts are Canucks records, and he ranks second in games played (448), GAA (2.36), and SV % (.919).

Vancouver was a consistent playoff team with Lu in net, making the Stanley Cup Finals in the 2010-11 season. The Canucks would lose a heartbreaking series to the Boston Bruins, after leading 3-2 in the series. This series defined the legacy of Lu, from two shutouts wins to a three-goal meltdown and benching in Boston which changed the series.

From Sunrise to Sunset

Luongo was traded back to the Panthers in March, 2014 to finish rewriting the record books in Florida. Another excellent run would ensue but the team could not quite get over the hump.

Injuries as they usually do began to take their toll, after being durable most of his career the last three years were tough for Luongo.

He would undergo hip surgery after only starting 39 games in the 2016-17 season, and would split time more in those final seasons with the emerging James Reimer. He is the Cats leader in career wins (230) and shutouts (38), like in that other place.

Unlike with the Canucks however, he enjoyed much less postseason success in his second stint. Luongo has also endured more defeats (241) than any other goalie in Panthers’ history.

Building a supporting cast around the franchise goalie was never successful, and Lu paid the price behind a subpar blue line for years.

Now a 19-year career split almost evenly between two franchises ends.

Where he ranks in the pantheon of both organizations is an interesting question.

It is no doubt high.

But is it the height of rafters?

He may have played to his own beat, but the Strombone sure composed a masterpiece.

At least now he will have more time for elite Twitter activity.