Tag Archive for: NHL

Carter Verhaeghe sends Florida Panthers to second round

It seemed improbable, maybe impossible. Down 3-1 against the greatest regular season team in NHL history, the Florida Panthers were written off by the hockey world. 


The only group that believed in the Panthers were themselves.


The Panthers shocked the hockey world tonight, defeating the Presidents’ Trophy winning Boston Bruins in Game 7 overtime, 4-3 to advance to the second round.


After clawing back in the series to force Game 7 in Boston, the Panthers once again found themselves in a hole tonight, trailing 3-2 with exactly a minute left in regulation.


Brandon Montour kept his team’s season alive, rifling a shot past Jeremy Swayman to tie the  game at 3-3.


With the late equalizer, this series went to overtime for the second time – both being elimination scenarios for the Panthers in Boston.


Winner takes all overtime in Game 7. Next bounce wins. Losers go home, winners move on. 


The extra frame saw both teams get their fair share of chances to win the series, but the two goaltenders kept their nets shut. 


Boston had a few early chances on Sergei Bobrovsky, while Florida had two great looks in front of Swayman from Matther Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe. 


The final shift of the game came from Florida’s three best players in the series.


A great forecheck from Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk prevented the Bruins from breaking out of their own zone. After an aggressive puck battle behind Boston’s net, Bennett fed Verhaeghe at the faceoff circle and the Panthers forward scored his second series clinching ot goal for the Panthers in consecutive years. 


The Panthers just snuck into the postseason, clinching their playoff berth before the final game of the regular season. The odds were against them as they took on a Bruins team that set the NHL record for both wins and points.


Florida will head to Toronto for the second-round to take on a Maple Leafs team that just got over a 19-year playoff series winless streak.

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’ 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.

Florida Panthers clinch No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference

SUNRISE – The Florida Panthers have officially clinched the first seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history on Thursday night. 

After a 5-2 home win over the Detroit Red Wings earlier in the night, Florida had to wait for the Tampa – Toronto game to go final before they could be named the first seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Toronto’s loss to Tampa was enough for Florida to lock up the top seed with five games left in the regular season. Alongside the first seed, they are also the 2021-2022 Atlantic Division Champions. 

Florida will have home ice for the entirety of the Eastern Conference side of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Panthers currently sit atop the NHL standings with 118 points in 77 games. The Colorado Avalanche is the only team that can catch Florida for the President’s Trophy, they sit atop the Western Conference and second in the NHL with 116 points in 77 games.

As the first seed, Florida will play the second wild card team in the East in the first round.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on May 2.

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

Joel Quenneville resigns as coach of Florida Panthers

Joel Quenneville has officially resigned as the head coach of the Florida Panthers, effective immediately.

The Panthers announced today that Quenneville resigned from his role with the club and an interim head coach announcement will be coming. 

This news comes just two days after the release of the Jenner & Block investigative report on the Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault investigation.

Quenneville was the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 when video coach Brad Aldrich allegedly assaulted a player, who has come forward as Kyle Beach.

Today Quenneville, alongside Panthers GM Bill Zito and President/CEO Matthew Caldwell met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York to discuss Quenneville’s role in the sexual abuse cover-up scandal from the 2010 Blackhawks team

Here is a quote from Quenneville following his resignation:

There has not been an official announcement from the Panthers regarding the interim coach, however, reports say that Panthers assistant coach Andrew Brunette will take over as the interim coach. 

Brunette played over 1100 games in his NHL career and has served as an assistant coach for both the Panthers and Minnesota Wild.

The Panthers have had the fastest start in franchise history, at 7-0-0.


Florida acquires defenseman Brandon Montour from Buffalo

The Florida Panthers have acquired 26-year-old defenseman Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third round pick. The trade was first reported by David Pagnotta. Kevin Weekes added on, saying the return was a third round pick. 


Montour has one year remaining on his $3.85 million contract, he will be a UFA this offseason.


The Brantford, Ont. native was selected 55th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2014 NHL Draft. He was traded to Buffalo for a first-round pick and Brendan Guhle at the 2019 NHL trade deadline. 


This season in Buffalo, Montour had 14 points in 38 games and was a minus 13. The Sabres are currently sitting at the bottom of the NHL and rank near the bottom of the league in team defense.


Montour’s best season came in 2017-2018 when he put up 32 points in 80 games with the Ducks.


The NHL trade deadline is two days away on April 12.

Florida Panthers make deal, clear cap space

The Florida Panthers have acquired forward Lucas Wallmark and defenseman Lucas Carlsson from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forwards Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgstrom, defenseman Riley Stillman and a seventh-round pick, as reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.


Wallmark, 25, played in seven regular season games as well as two playoff games for the Cats last season after he was acquired from Carolina as part of the Vincent Trocheck trade. Wallmark appeared in 16 games for Chicago this season, he will be a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) after this year. His current cap hit is $950k.


Carlsson, 23, split time between Chicago and their AHL affiliate, Rockford. He will also be an RFA after this season. The Swedish defenseman’s current cap hit is $792,500. 


Connolly has been in and out of the Panthers’ lineup all season. He has bounced between the active roster and taxi squad. The trade clears his $3.5 million AAV contract which was set to run through the 2022-2023 season. The 28-year-old had 4 points in 21 games this season with the Panthers.


Stillman, 23, played in eight games this season and has only played in 43 total games in his NHL career. The Panthers drafted Stillman 114th overall in the 2016 draft.


Borgstrom, also 23, was Florida’s 2016 first-round pick. The Finnish prospect only appeared in 54 games with the Panthers since he was drafted. Borgstrom is currently playing for HIFK in Liiga, Finland’s pro league.


With this trade, Florida clears additional cap space for both this season and for the future. Aleksander Barkov’s contract expires after next season, Jonathan Huberdeau’s deal expires after the 2022-2023 season. Capfriendly has Florida’s deadline capspace north of $18 million after these moves. 


The NHL trade deadline is April 12.

Panthers win an afterthought after injury to Aaron Ekblad

The Florida Panthers completed the sweep on Dallas this weekend with a 4-1 win against the Stars on Sunday night. Unfortunately for the Cats, this win was an afterthought after their star defenseman Aaron Ekblad went down with an injury midway through the second period.


Ekblad took an awkward fall near the boards after a collision with a Stars player and had to be taken off the ice with a stretcher. 


The 25-year-old has been with the team since 2014 when he was selected first overall by the Panthers in the 2014 NHL draft. Ekblad was having a career year this season, currently he is tied for the league lead in goals by a defenseman with 11 and is ranked top 20 in points for his position.


As of now, we do not know how much time Ekblad will miss. Any amount of time without him is a big loss for the Panthers, he leads all skaters in total ice time, averaging 25:31 a game and is the team’s number one defenseman. 


On top of Ekblad’s injury, captain Aleksander Barkov has been out the last four games with a lower body injury and Patric Hornqvist has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury.

Which team (Heat, Lightning, Rays) in Florida will win state’s next title?

It probably doesn’t need saying, but it’s been quite a seven months or so for sports teams in Florida. From September through March, we saw Florida teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, World Series and the Super Bowl. If you count the MLS Is Back Tournament Final, which saw Orlando City SC lose out to Portland, that’s five major sports finals for Florida teams. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

But Florida sports fans already knew all of the above. The more pertinent question is what comes next? Can Florida teams capitalize on the best period of success since the Bucs, Marlins and Lightning won championships between 2002-2004? We just don’t know. But we are going to guess by power ranking every NBA, MLS, NHL and MLB teams by the probability of winning a championship in 2021, starting with the least likely. 

  1. Orlando Magic 

It’s a testament to Florida sports teams’ strength right now that the team at the bottom of these rankings isn’t awful. Orlando has been blighted by injuries this season, and that looks like it might cost the team a third consecutive tilt at the Playoffs. There have been positives, notably Nikola Vucevic emergence as a truly elite NBA player. 

  1. Miami Marlins

Clinching a first postseason berth since 2003 might have convinced Marlins fans that better days lay ahead, but the rebuilding might have to continue in 2021. A problem beyond the team’s own limitations is the strength of the NL East, with both the Mets and Braves tipped to have big seasons.  

  1. Inter Miami CF

Florida’s newest sports club is finding its feet in the MLS. The team has big ambitions, and the acquisition of Phil Neville as head coach looks to be a clever move. Gonzalo Higuain, too, could provide the X-factor and goals. But this is a long term project, and we would be shocked to see Inter Miami in the latter stages of the MLS Cup. 

  1. Miami Heat

It’s not impossible that Miami wins the NBA Championship this year. In fact, the basketball odds at MansionBet put the Heat at 28/1 – about ninth-favorite overall. So, you shouldn’t rule it out. But the team really needs to start winning consistently. We are approaching the half-way point of the season, and Miami sits outside the playoff spots. 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays

Sportsbooks and pundits are quite cool on the Rays’ chances this season. Both MLB and CBS have the Rays at 10th in their power rankings, behind the AL East’s Yankees and Blue Jays. It’s a tough call, but Kevin Cash and the Rays could make those journalists eat their words – again. 

  1. Florida Panthers

It might seem strange to rank the Panthers ahead of the Rays and Miami Heat, but NHL is a little less top-heavy than NBA and MLB, so we rate the Panthers’ chances just a little higher. A lot would have to go right, of course, but this is an organization on an upward trajectory. 

  1. Orlando City SC

You have to like Orlando City’s chances this season. Coach Oscar Pareja has made the team hard to beat, and the run to the final of the MLS Is Back Tournament will act as good experience for the players. Like Inter Miami, they have a potential superstar in Alexander Pato. You get the feeling the Brazilian will either shine or flop, with no in-between. If it’s the former, then Orlando could land the MLS Cup.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning 

Tampa Bay tops the power rankings and bookmakers’ odds to retain the Stanley Cup in 2021. What more is there to say? The champions are the best team in NHL, and the most likely Floria team to bring home a championship in 2021. 


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.