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Lightning Round: Why the rivalry with the Panthers doesn’t always feel like a rivalry

Rivalries need stakes and this one hasn’t had them.

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Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

The Lightning’s 2-1 win last night was the 137th time they’ve faced off against the Florida Panthers in the regular season (if you threw in pre-season contests that number climbs to roughly 471). There is no team Tampa Bay has squared off against more times than the Panthers, nor is their a team they’ve racked up more points (145) against.

The same stats hold true for the Panthers. They’ve played the Lightning the most times in their franchise history and have recorded more points (158) against them than any other team. Both teams can claim winning records against the other with the Lightning sporting a 61-53-10-13 record while the Panthers are 66-45-10-16. Only in the NHL can two teams claim winning records against each other. Thank you, overtime loss pity point!

So with such stiff competition against each other and their geographic closeness, why hasn’t the rivalry that the NHL has long hoped for every really developed? As far as I can tell there are two reasons, and they’re both kind of related.

  • They are never really good at the same time.
  • They have never met in the playoffs.

The Lightning’s history is one of much struggle early on, building to a Stanley Cup, a fall from glory and a rebuild into a consistent contender. On the other hand, the Panthers started off pretty hot, reaching the Stanley Cup in their third year and making the playoffs in their fourth year (the only time they’ve reached the playoffs in back-to-back years) and then a long stretch of mediocrity sprinkled with a couple of playoff appearances.

The win-loss records between the clubs started with Florida dominating for the first seven seasons (the Lightning had a 6-22-7 record during those days), the teams splitting the next ten seasons (27-21-3-6 for the Bolts), and then Tampa dominating the since the 2010-11 season (28-10-0-3). The only time the Lightning lost the season series was in 2015-16 when they went 1-3-0-1 against the Panthers.

There hasn’t really been a season where both teams have been really good. In fact, there have only been two seasons where they’ve both made the playoffs at the same time and those came 20 years apart: 1995-96 and 2015-16.

That leads to the second point. Playoffs are where real rivalries are born. Think of that stretch when the Lightning met the Detroit Red Wings multiple years in a row. You really came to not like them at that point, right? The same would happen if the Lightning and the Panthers could ever get their act together in the same season (and it’s one of the reasons I’m personally in favor of the way the playoffs are organized right now).

Could this be the year it all changes? The Panthers have gotten off to a hot start and even after the loss on Tuesday night are in third place in the Atlantic. The Lightning have shown glimpses of being the Lightning over the last couple of weeks and have crept up to fifth place and are only two points behind the Panthers with a game in hand. These two teams may actually be battling for a playoff spot for the rest of the season (which makes it kind of sad that their last regular season meeting is December 23rd, but the argument for an unbalanced schedule will take place at another time).

Based on the way the game flowed on Tuesday, a seven-game series would be highly entertaining. The Lightning put up almost 50 shots, but Sergei Bobrovsky was stellar. The Panthers were getting great looks early in the game but kept getting stoned by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Both teams have talented forwards, and Pat Maroon jaw-jacking with Mike Hoffman for seven straight games would be highly entertaining.

Hopefully it happens and after more than two decades of sharing the hockey world in Florida these two teams can finally start a real rivalry.

The Game vs. The Panthers

The score may have only been 2-1, but the Lightning dominated the game via the eye test and the advanced stats test. Oh, and Vasilevskiy was pretty good as well. [Raw Charge]

Goal of the night:

Great job by Alex Killorn to read the play and pick-off the loose puck and feed it to Steven Stamkos who made a nifty move to wrap it around Bobrovsky. Feel free to ignore Stamkos getting away with a trip behind the net that caused that loose puck. See the refs aren’t totally against the Lightning!

The Organization

Where in the world is Cory Conacher? Syracuse. For now. [Syracuse Crunch]

The Tampa Bay Times takes a look at what goes into a Theme Night at Amalie Arena. Also, learn what Jan Rutta’s first car was. [Tampa Bay Times]

Matt breaks down the...well...breakdowns against the Islanders [Raw Charge]

The Rest of the Game

Former Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness returns as a head coach after spending the last 15 years as an assistant. He will serve as the interim coach in Dallas after the organization parted ways with Jim Montgomery. [Defending Big D]

Those hoping for a Team North America return in 2021 will be disappointed as Gary Bettman confirms there will be no World Cup. [ESPN]

More on the World Cup and some tidbits about the 2021 All Star game, a possible date for Seattle’s logo and colors unveiling, and a possible location for the 2021 Winter Classic (hint, it’s not Tampa or St. Pete) [Sports Business]

Craig Custance had two NHL executives, two scouts, a NHL coach, and Dom Luszczyszyn get together and rank team’s microcores. What’s a microcore? A team’s number one center, number one defenseman, and number one goaltender. The Lightning (Point, Hedman, and Vasy) did very well. The Devils did not. [The Athletic - subscription needed]