Friday, January 3, 2020

Sunshine State Struggles

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When you think of the Sunshine State what comes to mind are the beaches, bikini's, night clubs, palm trees, high rise condominiums and hotels.

There are other parts of Florida that aren't great such as the scams, numerous call centers, toll roads, transient drivers that lead to crashes and of course we can't forget the hurricanes.

When I lived here in the 1980's, the only major sports teams in the state were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins.

But how things have changed through the years.

South Florida has all four major sports while the Tampa Bay Area has three.

Even Jacksonville has an NFL team, the Jaguars.

Back in the 1980's, I never visualized that NHL Hockey would ever take place in the Sunshine State let a lone succeed. Where would the crowds come from?

After covering enough games through the years, the transplants show their colors at Tampa's Amalie Arena and the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

The Red Wings have a very good following at the BB&T Center.

It's nice to see the Red Wings twice in Sunrise which is 20 minutes from home.

I-75 North is a four hour drive if I take the trek to Tampa to see the Lightning.

When I saw the Red Wings get scheduled to play on My Birthday Weekend on December 28 and 29, this was too good to pass up.

Would there be a win during the holiday season for the Red Wings? Unfortunately, No!

Would the Red Wings be at least be competitive that weekend? Yes!

But I was wondering about them being competitive especially after Detroit's first game in Sunrise on November 2, 2019, when they looked flat and were blanked 4-0.

What occurred were a pair of one goal losses.

The Red Wings lost to the Florida Panthers 5-4 on December 28.

There were only two statistics that mattered.

First, Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard faced 30 shots and five got behind him.

Second, his record dropped to 2-13-1. Howard was playing his second game after a 10 game absence.

The Red Wings have now lost five straight to the Panthers.

But Coach Jeff Blashill left the contest pleased with his teams' effort.

The last time I saw the Red Wings play in Tampa, there were lots or Red and White jerseys in the stands.

This was no longer the case as current Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman changed the culture of the franchise and has turned them into a winner.

Yzerman didn't travel with the Red Wings during this trip.

Would the Red Wings get blown out in this game?

Tampa hasn't been kind to Detroit as the Red Wings haven't won there since February 17, 2011.

That would not be the case again as the Lightning defeated Detroit 2-1.

The Red Wings fell to 2-16-2 in their last 20 games.

The score could have been worse if it wasn't for the play of Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. He faced 39 shots and gave up two goals.

He kept the Red Wings in the game all night, but scoring one goal doesn't get it done.

The Red Wings have now lost 16 straight road games in Tampa.

They'll return here on Saturday, March 14 and hope to break this long drought.

Once again, Blashill was pleased with the competitive level of his team and hoped that would carry over into their New Year's Eve Clash two days later against the San Jose Sharks on December 31, 2019.

After losing by two goals that weekend, two was yet the magic number as this time, the Red Wings shutout the Sharks 2-0 at Little Caesars Arena.

The team's six-game losing streak was over,

Once again, it was the stellar play of Bernier that stood out as he stopped all 34 pucks that came his way.

It was Bernier's first shutout of the season and 18th of his career. He improved to 8-11-2.

Through the halfway point in the season, Detroit has a 10-28-3 record with 23 points and is the worst in the NHL.

The second worst team is the New Jersey Devils who own a 15-19-6 mark with 36 points.

What will the next 41 games be like?

One can only hope that the 2020 portion of the schedule is kinder than 2019.

On a positive note to end the year, Tyler Bertuzzi, 24, who leads the Red Wings with 30 points will be playing in the All-Star Game in St. Louis in February.

One thing seems certain is that they're playing hard for Blashill and Yzerman keeps stressing patience and we'll see if the younger players take advantage of their opportunities to see if they'll be playing in Detroit long term.

One guy to watch will be Filip Zadina, a 2018 pick who demonstrates great presence around the net that has the capabilities of being a goal scorer.

We'll find whether the Red Wings will get lucky to get the marquee franchise player they so desperately need in the June NHL Draft.

From my standpoint, it was neat seeing some old friends again such as Ken Kal, Paul Woods, Ted Kulfan and Trevor Thompson to name a few.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com and is the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and Broadcasting Network.

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