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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.

Five Takeaways from Florida Panthers’ win over Blue Jackets

The Florida Panthers came out on top of a wild comeback thriller against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. This was Florida’s first game in a week after their two game series against Carolina was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Hurricanes organization. Florida looked like the stronger team tonight but it wasn’t the prettiest of wins. Here are the takeaways from the game.

 

#1: Sergei Bobrovsky’s play put the Panthers in a hole early on.

 

After a subpar 2019-2020 campaign with the Panthers, the $70 million goalie looks like he hasn’t changed. In the opening minutes of the game, Bobrovsky gave up two weak goals on Columbus’ first two shots. After the Panthers clawed back to make it a 2-2 game, Bobrovsky let in a short handed goal on another saveable puck. The two-time Vezina winner couldn’t seem to find his groove in regulation despite his team keeping Columbus to just 17 shots through three periods. Bob stood his ground in the overtime and shootout, but he didn’t help his team at all by giving up those early goals. If his performance continues to hinder the team like this, promoting Chris Dreidger to the starter shouldn’t be out of the question.

 

#2: The penalty kill was spectacular, going 6/6.

 

It’s never a good sight when your team takes six penalties in a game. Luckily for Florida, their 12 penalty minutes didn’t lead to a goal against. The penalty kill (pk) unit was able to not only kill off all the penalties, but also generate a few short handed chances the other way. Each time Florida killed a penalty, it completely took the momentum away from Columbus. One of the six penalty kills came during the overtime when Frank Vatrano took a tripping penalty. The team had to kill a 4-on-3 to stay alive in the game. Last season the Panthers penalty kill ranked twentieth in the NHL with a 78.49 penalty killing percentage. An improved pk unit will be extremely valuable down the stretch in this condensed season. 

 

#3: New Panthers shine once again.

 

Florida’s team looks completely different this season. The offseason acquisitions of Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair paid dividends tonight against Columbus. The four first-year Panthers combined for six points, while Hornqvist got the game-tying goal with two seconds left in regulation and the shootout winner. Florida moved to 3-0-0 for the first time in franchise history.

 

#4: The first line controlled the game from the jump.

 

Aleksander Barkov is known around the league as one of the best two-way centres in the game. Heading into this season, head coach Joel Quenneville decided to split up Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to provide more balance across the top 6. As they did against Chicago, the line of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Duclair controlled the game. Columbus couldn’t find a way to stop the constant pressure from this unit. Between Verhaeghe winning loose puck battles, Duclair walking past defenders and Barkov ripping pucks towards goal, this line was nothing short of dominant. The three of them combined for two goals and five points on the night. 

 

#5: Aleksander Barkov was more aggressive.

 

Throughout his career, Barkov has never been a selfish player, sometimes he was too unselfish for his own benefit. In the past Barkov often looked to dish the puck to his teammates rather than taking the shot himself. It looked like Barkov flipped a switch tonight, he came into the game with a shooter’s mentality. The captain led the game with eight shots on goal and found the back of the net once on a beautiful shot from the slot. An aggressive Barkov will keep goalies guessing and it will ultimately help evolve his game more as a two-way playmaking centre.  

Florida Panthers: Dale Tallon out as general manager after loss

The Florida Panthers are making a general manager change. According to multiple media reports, Dale Tallon is out as the team’s general manager.

Tallon joined the Florida Panthers on May 17, 2010, replacing Randy Sexton. Tallon was coming off a Stanley Cup ring with Chicago, and seemed pretty convincing during his introductory press conference

Despite the lack of sustainable success in recent years, he did have some successful years in Florida. In the 2011-12 season, the Panthers compiled a 38-26 record. Nevertheless, they were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round.

2016 was a another successful season for the organization. With the Panthers posting a 47-26-9 record in the 2015-16 season again, they could not get over the hump of the first round, as they were eliminated by the New York Islanders in six games.

With the Islanders defeating the Florida Panthers on Friday, they were eliminated from the best-of-five qualifying series. It was just another unfortunate notch in the belt of a Panthers organization used to early playoff exits.

Florida Panthers have talent to compete

Now, the Panthers are in search for another general manager. There is no doubt that they have young talent in Evgenii Dadonov and Jonathan Huberdeau. those two should carry the team for years to come and make the team competitive.

This season in particular was marred by several factors. Two of the most glaring ones were a lack of solid defensive play, and inconsistent play from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. In a tough Atlantic Division, every game meant something this season. Too often, Florida found themselves on the precipice of big things, but not where they needed to be in order to compete.

It will be interesting to see who the Panthers tab as a replacement. They are in a unique position right now, and they should definitely take advantage of this window of opportunity.

CORONAVIRUS Sports Tracker: Frequent Updates

The widespread coronavirus outbreak has impacted professional and collegiate sports across the nation.

Most recent at the top….

Hey, finally some good news!

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THE MASTERS is now postponed. Could mark first time in history that the tournament is not played in April.


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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP is now cancelled, along with every PGA event till the first week of April.

…..

Charles Barkley is among the latest to self-quarantine.

 

The Heat are working on something to help arena workers. More details to come.

 

Some NBA teams are doing the right thing.

 

Dwyane Wade doesn’t understand what the local school officials here are doing.

 

The XFL has caved. So much for the rebirth… for now.

 

It’s now infecting international soccer.

 

NBA will be suspended for 30 days.

Essentially that means the regular season is over.

 

Goodbye March Madness.

 

More details on the NBA coming soon.

 

Dan Gilbert is ahead of Micky Arison on something.

One league seems intent on outlasting all the others.

The entire ACC has postponed spring practice for all teams, which may also put the Hurricanes spring game in jeopardy.

 

Fans of the Marlins will have to wait a few extra weeks…

The American Airlines Arena has canceled all major events for the rest of March.

 

There will also be no NFL Spring meeting in Palm Beach for the time being.

 

 

The National Hockey League has suspended their season as well.

 

 

 

The Florida Atlantic University basketball season is over….

NFL now headed for a shutdown. Hard to see how free agency proceeds as scheduled…

So much for that InterMiami home debut.

Yes, it is already affecting prep for the NFL draft.

We are now waiting on the NHL.

A second NBA star has been diagnosed.

 

After it was learned Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, the NBA has suspended the season indefinitely.

 

The NCAA had already announced that all men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be held without fans.

 

Locally, besides the Miami Heat other sporting events are being cancelled or postponed including the upcoming Miami Open.

 

Florida Panthers: Defense will need to be on their toes against Toronto

The Florida Panthers have a tough contest ahead of them as the Toronto Maple Leafs are next up on the schedule Thursday. After losing to a Zamboni driver on Saturday, the Maple Leafs fared much better in their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Beating Tampa Bay 4-3, they had into Thursday’s action with a couple of hot goal scorers.

For starters, look no further than John Tavares. He had two goals on Tuesday, showing just how explosive he is and how consistent he has been over the past couple of years.  He has recorded five points in his last five games.

In the month of February, Mitch Marner has had a fantastic time finding the goal-scorers. He has recorded two goals and 10 assists so far in the month. He had an assist on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. With the assist, he has now recorded three points in his last five games.

Although the Toronto Maple Leafs may struggle with consistency, they are still a team full of potent scorers. The real question is to whether they will show up each and every night.

Florida Panthers need to play strong defense to counter speed

Even with the inconsistencies, the Florida Panthers have to play better defense on Thursday. Defense has not been a strong suit for them this year. As result, Bobrovsky  he has struggled. He had a great game on Tuesday however, giving up one goal to the Arizona Coyotes in what was a 2-1 win. In 60 minutes of play, he made 37 saves. This was certainly an improvement from some of his past starts.

This Toronto team skates fast and shoots often. Borovsky is going to need to be on top his game, and I don’t trust the Florida defense to get back in time. This is a very balanced Toronto team who will need to capitalize on mistakes.

The Florida Panthers will need to be on their toes all game. This will be a crucial  game for the defense, and a win on Thursday could do wonders in boosting the conference. As long as Florida plays back and focuses  on staying in front of their man, they should be able to have a chance at success.

Florida Panthers: Team needs to test Darcy Kuemper early and often

As the Florida Panthers get set to take on the Arizona Coyotes  they have a golden chance to pick up a victory. Arizona will be sending out goalie Darcy Kuemper. If I’m Florida, I am licking my chops.

Kuemper has not played in a game in more than two months due to a lower-body injury. He was called up from AHL Tucson on Sunday. Prior to his injury, he was playing extremely well. He recorded a 15-8  mark and had a 2.17 goals-against average. He tallied a .929 save percentage in 25 starts.

This is a golden opportunity for Florida to make an impact and get the lead early. As good as Kuemper was prior to his injury, he hasn’t seen NHL action in a while. The Panthers need to make sure to get pucks on him early.

Florida is only seven points out of a playoff spot. Columbus currently holds the second wild-card spot with 76 points. Florida currently has 70 on the season. They come into Tuesday’s action having lost two games in a row. Arizona is sitting comfortably in the second wild-card spot, having beaten Tampa Bay 7-3 on Saturday.

Florida Panthers need to test Arizona Coyotes goalie

The Florida Panthers need to make sure they test Kuemper early. Creating traffic in front of the net will be key. Screens  will be crucial offensively.  Shielding his vision via screens and moving in front of the net will be paramount for Florida.

Driving towards the net instead of taking simple shots from the point should be a focus. That will put more pressure on Kuemper Injury or not, Kuemper has proven to be a solid goaltender. He is not going to be beaten  easily.

The offensive output for Florida is going to need to be strong. Here they have a golden opportunity to face a goalie who is trying to get his game going again. They need to be active and shoot frequently. Getting pucks towards the net and creating traffic should  lead to success.

The Florida Panthers need this win, and they have an opportunity to make it happen.

Florida Panthers: Defense struggles again in difficult loss

With the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers meeting on Thursday,  the Panthers needed to put together a strong showing to remain in the playoff hunt. On home ice, they had a perfect opportunity to put themselves right in the playoff mix. Instead of winning, the Panthers were defeated 6-3.

This was a game the Florida Panthers completely squandered on home ice. As they took on the Philadelphia Flyers, they got into a hole and  could never dig themselves out. in what is becoming a common theme, the defense was flat. They played on their heels for a majority of the game, and that did not bode well for a win.

Florida Panthers fall behind early

It started with three straight goals in the first frame. They were never able to fully put together a comeback. Jonathan Huberdeau finally scored for the Florida Panthers 33 seconds into the third frame. However, by that time, the Florida Panthers already put themselves in a four-goal deficit. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov scored their 20th and 17th goals on the season. However, the late comeback was still not enough.

Thursday night, defensive play was the Achilles’ heel again. It’s been a problem throughout most of the season. Once again, they left the goaltender hung out to dry. Thursday night, Sergei Bobrovsky  had another rough affair. After giving up three goals on nine shots, he was pulled at the end of the second frame.

Sam Montembeault struggled in relief. He gave up three goals on 19 shots in 40 minutes of ice time. No matter who the Florida Panthers put out there, the Flyers were able to find ways to score. Both goaltenders had a rough night, but it also spoke to the fact that the defense was not up to par. The goalies could only do so much, and they struggled containing Philadelphia’s offensive attack.

James van Riemsdyk had a huge game for Philadelphia. He scored a goal and two assists. Scoring the opening goal at 4:24 in the first frame, he set the tone early.

Now, the Florida Panthers take on the Oilers Saturday looking to take back some momentum. One thing is becoming apparent. Florida needs to quickly address the defensive woes as we get closer to the playoffs.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky has little room for error Thursday

It’s not too often that a goalie can be the focal point of the game, but such is life with Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers. Bobrovsky has struggled over his past couple of outings, and the Philadelphia Flyers will be a tough test for him on Thursday night.

Bobrovsky has not won a game since February 3, losing three decisions in between. One of those was to the Flyers. In that contest, he gave up three goals on February 10 in what was a 4-1 loss for the Panthers. Ivan Provorov, James Van Riemsdyk, and Travis Sanheim each scored goals against Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky in rut for Florida Panthers

Bobrovsky is in a bit of a rut right now. He has struggled for much of the 2020 calendar year, and he has a tough road from here on out. Some of it has to do with the defense of the Florida Panthers . However, a lot of it can be traced back to Bobrovsky’s play. He has not looked comfortable in net, and that is especially apparent during his three-game losing streak.

He is definitely going to be challenged Thursday. This is a Philadelphia Flyers team that is on a bit of a roll right now. They did lose to the Islanders by a 5-3 score on Monday. However, they have won two out of their last three games. This includes beating Washington 7-2 last Saturday.

The Eastern Conference is in the midst of a close playoff race. A win on Thursday for the Panthers could help them inch closer to the eighth spot in the conference.

Prior to Thursday’s game, Florida is in the 10th spot with 66 points. Toronto holds the eighth spot with 68 points.  Philadelphia is clinging to the seventh spot with 69 points. There is not much that separates these two teams from switching places.

Bobrovsky needs to have a solid game on Thursday. He needs to be alert and ready. Philadelphia has a balanced scoring attack. Bobrovsky found that out the hard way the last time these two met. If he can have a clean first period and withstand the initial rush from Philadelphia, he should be in much better shape than he has been the past three games. He needs to be on top of his game Thursday as each game becomes more important for the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers: Fourth line comes up huge in win

The Florida Panthers beat the New Jersey Devils by a 5-3 margin on Wednesday night. That was due largely to the play of the fourth line. They were flying all over the ice, and getting themselves involved in every play.

They had their hands all over this game. Mark Pysyk had a goal and two assists on the evening. Michael Matheson had a goal and two assist to his credit as well. Not to be forgotten, Noel Acciari  had a goal and an assist on the evening.  The Florida Panthers were able to get production from somewhere else besides the top line. This is certainly a positive development for a young organization that is looking to get a winning streak going come playoff time.

Fourth line crucial for Florida Panthers

It’s not that this Florida Panthers team does not have depth. They certainly do, proving it on Tuesday. However, having the fourth line excel on Wednesday night speaks to the depth of the team. Especially with the Florida Panthers struggling over the past couple of weeks, having this line come up as big as they did is certainly good for the team moving forward.

As the dog days of the season are approaching, not having to rely on the top line Wednesday night was  important. The fourth line produced some gritty shifts. It was exactly the type of performance that you would expect from that line. The scoring prowess on the part of that line was just a bonus. As a result, all three players have been named the three stars of the game.

It would be premature to call them the best fourth line of hockey . However, those individuals were able to help the Florida Panthers secure a victory over New Jersey. Even more impressively, it came without a ton of help from the top line. It will be interesting to see how this line plays throughout the remainder of the season. With division races heating up, all players need to be firing on all cylinders from here on out.