The Sunshine State Rivalry is about to explode

When people think of Florida sports rivalries, they usually go straight to football and the Miami Hurricanes, Florida State Seminoles, and Florida Gators. However, there is a new rivalry that has emerged and turned the state of Florida upside down.

That is right, the Sunshine State Fuckfest has officially come to be one of the hottest and most explosive rivalries in the state of Florida and the NHL. To say these two teams do not like each other is an understatement.

For a mean nothing, preseason game, this felt more like a Stanley Cup Final Game 7. This reminded me of the old school Bruins v Habs or Detroit v Colorado in the late 90’s/early 2000’s as there was pure hate exhibited on the ice.

The two teams accumulated 96 minutes in penalties with 5 fighting majors per side. Tippett and Bennett both fought twice and each had an opportunity to take on The Worm, aka Corey Perry, in a bout last night. The Panthers showed that they were here to play and were no longer going to be bullied or shy away from a physical game.

This being said, Tippett has a chip on his shoulder and seems to be out to prove why he should be a top 6 guys this year. Tippett had 2 goals and 2 fights last night and all he was missing is 2 assists and he would have a double Gordie Howe Hat Trick! This guy has looked fantastic this preseason and seemed to be meshing well with Huberdeau on that 2nd line. I could see him fitting in nicely there come opening night.

As you can tell by his fights, this ginger has snapped. I love the way he is playing the game. He is banging bodies, scoring goals, and dropping mitts. Tippett is truly playing the game the right way and the way the Panthers need him to play if he they want to win.

The real changing point of the game was when Bennett and Vasi bumped behind the net and all hell broke loose. There are a few key points I would like to make regarding this first though.

  1. Vasilevsky definitely flopped looking for a call. As a goalie, I know the refs give us the benefit of the doubt, but as you can see in the video, Vasi was barely touched. He went looking for a call or he lost an edge. He is too good of a player and skater to go down like that off of a nudge at best.
  2. Maybe it is old school, but the only time that should be a penalty or wrongdoing is if the goalie is trying to get back to his net. Vasi didn’t seem to play the puck clean, Bennett was forechecking, and the barely tapped each other (see point #1 again, Vasi dove).
  3. Bennett is playing the game hard and the right way. He and Tippett looked fantastic. Making hits, generating scoring opportunities, and played hard-nosed hockey.
  4. Tippett fought Perry during this whole scrum. While the Lightning and Panthers were gathered around Bennett and having one large group hug, Tippett squares off with one of the biggest pests in the league. Tippett has played tough and can play a physical game; however, he stepped up against an established physical player.

While Tampa did not dress Hedman, Kucherov, or Stamkos; they still had the majority of their stars playing inclusive Pallat, Point, and of course Vasi. While Hedman and Kucherov are game changers, I do not think they would have made that big of an impact last night. The Panthers look good and if they can get around Tampa, I think they should be favorites to win the Eastern Conference.

Vasilevsky and Knight put on a great goaltending exhibition making crucial saves throughout the game. Knight was impressive yet again, with all of his teammates and coaches referring to him as “calm, cool, and collected” throughout the game. Knight is out to prove that he is not just the Panther’s goaltender of the future, but the goaltender for now! I think with as impressive as Knight can be, Coach Q will definitely keep Bobrovsky on a very short leash this season.

It will not surprise me if Knight and Bob do a 50/50 or 60/40 split of the games as Knight looks good and really has nothing to lose. The job is Bobrovsky’s to lose and he has spent the past 2 seasons trying his best to lose it. Maybe added pressure from Knight will help reignite Bob or maybe he just sits backup until the Cats by him out. Only time will tell.

It is a shame that these two teams will only meet 4 times during the regular season as I would definitely enjoy seeing the fuckfest more frequently. The teams are sick of each other, the players are sick of each other, and the fans are sick of each other. This is something that makes a rivalry well worth the price of admission.

Overall, it was a close game with each team having spurts of dominance and control of the game. Tippett’s two goals were the difference maker in what was an otherwise very evenly played game. The Cup will once again have to go through Florida, but which Florida city is yet to be determined.

Let’s go Cats!

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