If you were in the Amway Center Tuesday night, you were in for a treat. For the first time this season, the Cats and the Bolts shared the ice and it was absolutely electric. I’ve never been a big preseason hockey fan, but the first edition of the Sunshine State Showdown has me looking forward to Thursday’s encore and Saturday’s grand finale of the Panthers vs Lightning series.
1. This was just a preview of what’s to come
There really is no other way to say it; we hate them, and they hate us. There’s always been beef in the Panthers vs Lightning series, but the playoff series in May only amplified that. I mean look at the penalty minutes accumulated in the THIRD PERIOD OF A PRESEASON GAME.
Shoutout Bryan for bringing it up, but the Panthers-Lightning battles may just be the best rivalry in hockey right now. The battles are only going to get more intense as the season goes on, and if we see them in the playoffs, you better hold onto your butts. Maybe we see the modern day version of the iconic Sabres Senators brawl, but that will have to wait for now.
2. Owen Tippett is a Top 6 Forward
Henrik Borgstrom walked so Owen Tippett could fly. Tippett has continued to build off his strong finish to last season by adding two goals against Vasilevskiy on Tuesday.
Tippett showed flashes last season alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Sam Bennett, and I think a full season alongside them can lead to some magic from 74. We’ll see the 9-1-1 line (Huby, Bennett, Duclair) reunite at some point in the season, but right now you have to let Tippett play on the second line and evaluate him from there. On top of that, Duclair offers more stability alongside Anton Lundell than Tippett does, which is important in building confidence of the young Fin.
If all goes well, Tippett will become the most impactful first round draft pick (as a skater, Knight will earn this overall title soon) for the Cats since the arrival of Aaron Ekblad in 2014.
3. Noel Acciari’s Injury
Unfortunately a consequence of the intensity of Tuesday’s game. Acciari left the game early with a shoulder injury, and the Twitter Doctors believe it to be severe.
If Acciari is to miss 5+ months, what the team does from there will be interesting. Acciari projected to play on the fourth line and was going to figure into the teams penalty kill rotation, so his absence will have to be dealt with. Does Joe Thornton center the fourth line or do they look at giving Eetu Luostarinen the opportunity instead?
4. Knight’s Watch is Coming
With Sergei Bobrovsky being unable to play last night (Big congrats to him and his wife on the birth of their child!) it was Spencer Knight’s time to shine.
Knight continues to show that he’s ready for an increased role with the team this season, bringing a sense of calmness in between the pipes along with his elite puck tracking ability. While Bob is expected to be the main guy this season, I feel that his leash is shorter than ever. The franchise used a high draft pick on Knight (otherwise we could be sitting here talking about Panthers legend Cole Caufield) and his rapid development may force Q to make a change earlier than they expected to.
Overall, the team showed they’re ready for the regular season to start and so am I. Looking forward to being in the FLA Live Arena next week when the Cats kick off the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Until next time, we move 🤝
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