The Florida Panthers punched their ticket to the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins were upset by Chicago.
Friday, the Miami Heat joined them in the postseason by beating Chicago.
It is a familiar combination — the Heat and Panthers sharing the spotlight during the playoff season.
Only that is mainly because the Heat rarely miss the postseason.
Friday night, Miami beat the Bulls in its second play-in game officially taking the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and an opening-round series with Milwaukee.
In 35 seasons, the Heat has advanced to the playoffs in 24 of them.
The Panthers, meanwhile, has made the postseason nine times in their 28 seasons — if one includes the expanded field which wrapped up the Covid-shortened 2019-20 season. Florida opens in Boston on Monday night.
“Four in a row, that counts,” said Aaron Ekblad, whose team lost in 4 to the Islanders in the qualifying round.
“Making the playoffs three straight years is an accomplishment in itself and it is exciting around here. We were all watching that Pittsburgh game and I guarantee you there isn’t a player in here who missed a second of that third period. We were on the edge of our seats. My wife was sleeping on the couch and I woke her up on those three goals. It is an opportunity to have a clean slate and play hard in the playoffs. This is a great time of year.”
Of the eight — or nine — times the Panthers have made the playoffs, the Heat has been there as well.
In fact, every season the Panthers have made the postseason, their friends from Miami has made it as well.
The Heat has gone deeper in the playoffs than the Panthers have in all but one of them. In 1996, the Heat lost in the first round while Florida made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in its first trip to the playoffs.
While the Panthers certainly may have benefited from having the attention of South Florida’s sports fans to themselves — with apologies to the Marlins — they have made it clear they are rooting for the Heat.
“We have been getting incredible support and the crowds have been great especially leading up to the playoffs,” Sasha Barkov said. “This is the best time of the year, for sure. This building gets loud. I am really looking forward to it.
“But … go Heat.’’
MIAMI HEAT/FLORIDA PANTHERS PLAYOFF HISTORY
2023 — Heat: 8th seed vs. Milwaukee; Panthers: 8th seed vs. Boston
2022 — Heat: Lost in Eastern Conference finals; Panthers: Lost 2nd round
2021 — Heat: Lost 1st round; Panthers: Lost 1st round
2020 — Heat: Lost NBA Finals to Lakers; Panthers: Lost in qualifying round
2016 — Heat: Lost 2nd round; Panthers: Lost 1st round
2012 — Heat: Won NBA Championship; Panthers: Lost 1st round
2000 — Heat: Lost 2nd round; Panthers: Lost 1st round
1997 — Heat: Lost Eastern Conference finals; Panthers: Lost 1st round
1996 — Heat: Lost 1st round; Panthers: Lost in Stanley Cup Final
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
- When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Boston Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Monday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 2: at Boston, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, April 23, 3:30 (TNT); Game 5*: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26; Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30.