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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Best Time of the Year: Panthers, Heat Open Playoffs Today



Heat panthers
Sasha Barkov and Bam Adebayo lead the Florida Panthers and Miami Heat into their respective playoffs this afternoon. // AP photos, FHN Graphic

Last summer, the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers thrilled sports fans throughout South Florida as the two marched to their respective finals — both as No. 8 seeds, to boot.

Although the Panthers are not the underdogs they were last year, the Heat come into this postseason following a similar path as it had to win a play-in game against Chicago on Friday to make the playoffs.

Both hope to make a deep run.

That road starts today.

As was the case numerous times last postseason, both the Heat and Panthers will be playing at the same time today as the two kick off the playoffs.

The Panthers open at home as the Atlantic Division champions play the Tampa Bay Lightning at 12:30 in Sunrise (ESPN/Bally Sports Florida); Miami opens up against the host Boston Celtics today at 1 (ABC).

Both the Panthers and Heat know its opponents quite well.

Florida has long had a rivalry with the Lightning, one which has really taken off as the two met in the playoffs for the first time in 2021. Tampa Bay ended the Panthers season in both 2021 and 2022.

This is the third straight postseason that the Heat and Celtics have met and sixth overall.

Since 2020, Miami and Boston met in the Eastern Conference finals three times — with the Heat winning twice, including last year’s epic series in which Miami won three of four in Boston.

The Panthers, it should be noted, also won three of four in Boston during the first round last year.

Boston won all three games against the Heat during the regular season; Florida won two of three against the Lightning.

“It’s going to be a dog fight,” Bam Adebayo said according to the Miami Herald. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be in the mud, it’s not going to be pretty basketball.

“That’s usually how it’s been when we see that team. That’s usually how it is. It’s always competitive. Everybody always plays their best basketball in that series.”


So, what’s the difference between the regular season and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs?

Let Paul Maurice spell it out for you.

It really is the best time of year.

— Matthew Tkachuk became the face of the Stanley Cup playoffs last year as he helped the Panthers make it all the way to the Final. You’ll see a lot of him this postseason. And his family, too.

— The Panthers could have ducked the Lightning if they wanted to. Instead, they ran right to them. Sometimes you have to beat the man to, well, you know…

Three keys to today’s Game 1. 


— The Panthers needed more depth as their playoff run kept going last summer. They are much deeper now.

Sam Reinhart had a season to remember with 57 goals. He wants to make it even more memorable in the playoffs.

Aaron Ekblad is back and ready to go in Game 1.

— Subscribe to the FHN YouTube Channel for plenty of videos from the Panthers including special playoff shows — like our playoff preview with special guest Jessica Blaylock — as well as practice, pre- and postgame comments from players and coaches. Lots of good stuff coming up!

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:


Well, looks like the Boston Bruins may have had the right idea.

Playing the Maple Leafs in the first round was the way to go.


— The New York Islanders threw everything at Frederik Andersen — but, the Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead.

— The good folks from Sportsnet make their playoff predictions.

— Did you see the press conference in Arizona on Friday? Do you want to?

Jonathan Drouin will not play in the opening round for the Colorado Avalanche.

Ryan Johansen does not think he can continue on with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Steve Yzerman has hope that the Detroit Red Wings will be a playoff team next year.

  • When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • Local TV/National TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • First Round Schedule — Game 1: Sunday at Florida, 12:30 p.m. (BSF, ESPN); Game 2: Tuesday at Florida, 7:30 (BSF, ESPN2); Game 3: Thursday at Tampa Bay, 7 (BSF, TBS); Game 4:Saturday Ap. 27 at Tampa Bay, 5 (BSF, TBS, TruTV); Game 5*:Monday Ap. 29 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 6*: Wednesday May 1 at Tampa Bay, TBA (BSF, TBA); Game 7*:Saturday May 4 at Florida, TBA (BSF, TBA). (*) — If necessary
  • 2023-24 Regular Season Series (Panthers Won 2-1) — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27)Panthers 9, Lightning 2 (Feb. 17). At Florida: Lightning 5, Panthers 3 (March 16).
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 77-51-19, 10 ties
  • All-Time Postgame Series: Lightning Leads 2-0 (2021 first-round, 2022 ECS)

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