The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning beat the ever-loving crap out of each other in a preseason game on Tuesday
It’s hard to believe, but the start of a shiny new NHL season is less than a week away. There’s hockey in Seattle now, Jack Eichel and the Sabres are going through a divorce that makes your parents look functional, and, if Tuesday night was any indication, the Tampa Bay Lightning-Florida Panthers rivalry is just about ready to come out of the oven.
That’s exhibit A. This is exhibit B.
Folks, we really can’t stress this enough: This is just a preseason game. In fact, so ripe was the hatred at Amalie Arena on Tuesday night, that we had to go check the calendar to make sure that we didn't have the week wrong. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and that’s certainly part of it, but so does success, and the Lightning—winners of back-to-back Stanley Cups—now have a big, fat target on their back.
Still though, it takes a special level of hatred to leave your shoulder in on an opposing goaltender in a meaningless preseason game, and clearly the Panthers have arrived at that threshold. That’s good news for the hockey fans and the NHL alike. For years, the warm-weather expansion franchises, even when dominant (see: Tampa Bay) or in possession of rabid fanbases (see: Las Vegas), have felt plastic. A huge reason why was the lack of authentic rivalries. We know how the Bruins and Habs feel about each other, and we love it. Now Florida has some bad blood to call their own and we can’t wait to watch it boil.