SZNAP CHAT – MAY 11
By Adam Sznapstajler

THE BATTLE FOR CUBAN SANDWICH SUPREMACY

I’ve heard the name for the upcoming Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers series described as The Battle Down I75. This completely lacks creativity (as naming things after highways usually does) and fails to showcase probably the greatest rivalry between Tampa and Miami, the Cuban Sandwich.

Wait, there are two Cuban sandwiches!?

I know, this shocked me too. For those uninitiated there has long been a feud between Tampa Cubans and Miami Cubans as who truly has the best Cuban sandwich. As a Cuban-American South Florida native who spent time in Tampa I can tell you that they are similar but very different. The Tampa Cuban sandwich takes the Miami Cuban sandwich and adds salami, and believe me that slice of salami makes a load of difference. The original reason for the salami was to incorporate the large Italian presence in Tampa at the time and make the sandwich more appealing. I have to say that the salami does add a nice twist, however to spare the wrath of my South Florida Cuban family, I’m going to stick with the original from Miami.

Or I can just let the winner of the series decide. On to my preview!

After two straight victories outscoring the Lightning by a score of 9-1 between both games, the Florida Panthers are approaching their first round series playing some red hot hockey and with newly secured home ice for the first round. Saturday night set the tone for what the series could be as both teams totaled 154 penalty minutes, 10 game misconducts, and 4 fighting majors in the Panthers lopsided victory.  What we observed was the making of what is going to be a very physical series.

But let’s be honest, any time there are two must win, essentially playoff games and a team wins 5-1 and 4-0 we know who the better team is but with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov coming back for the Lightning it does change the dynamic for the series. However, they won’t solve the issue for the Lightning. The problem has been their defense against the Panthers, who have accounted for 4 out of the 9 games Andrei Vasilevskiy has given up 4 goals all season.

Although the Lightning are getting top end talent back, the Ice Cats are just playing too well right now and I don’t see Tampa Bay slowing them down. I’m going to go Panthers in 6, especially now that they have captured home ice.

MiAMI HEAT

After almost blowing a 25 point halftime lead against the Celtics the Heat sit two games up on the play-in game. One more win against the Celtics and that thought goes in the rear view mirror. After a long season full of ups and downs, it seems that the Heat have finally regained a form close to what they exhibited in the bubble.

The reason for this regained form is the resurgence of Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic, as well as the addition of Dewayne Deadmon. Dragic is finally starting to show his electric first step and driving ability that led to his elite performance in the combine. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t fully healed from his playoff foot injury until now, especially after the shortened offseason. I think the same can be said for Tyler Herro. As a young growing player, Herro could have benefited from a full offseason, instead he was rushed into this season with everyone else and it seemed to affect him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after poor play, he takes a two week injury break and comes back a new player. He was probably hurt all along, hampered by the lack of offseason.

The biggest reason for the quality play of the Heat has been the addition of Dewayne Deadmon. He has given the team a solid, defensive minded, extremely physical big. He has given Bam a true backup center with experience, sorry Precious, and shows no trouble going out to guard towards the three point line like Bam. I don’t get how no one had signed this man yet.

What to watch for: A win Tuesday against the Celtics will put the Heat 3 games up on the play-in game with 3 games remaining, effectively marking them safe. Now my eyes turn on the 4/5 matchup and home court advantage. I can definitely see the Heat moving up to either the 4 or 5 seed and a possible first round battle against the newly competent Knicks is intriguing.

INTER MIAMI

I want to make sure to give the boys in pink credit for what should have been a victory in their match against Atlanta F.C. on Sunday. After being down 1-0, Inter Miami took advantage of an awesome Lewis Morgan drive and goal to draw 1-1. They were also robbed by the match referee multiple times of would be game winning penalty kick; once in an obvious Brad Guzan penalty straying from goal, and the other an obvious hand ball in the box.

Either way, Inter Miami continues to show a form this year that has me excited for the prospects. I still think the back line continues to be spotty and the attackers need to score better, however these are both issues that can work themselves out in-season as the players become more comfortable in manager Phil Neville’s scheme.

Hope you enjoyed this weeks SZNAP CHAT.  Look for my column every Tuesday.