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Cats Slapshot: Is Florida-Tampa Bay the NHL's Next Great Rivalry?

For this generation, the new blood of the NHL resides in the Sunshine State

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While it may be something that might make fans of the Florida Panthers sick to their stomachs to hear, it needs to be said: the Tampa Bay Lightning are just one game away from a historical moment.

If Tampa Bay wins Game Four of their Stanley Cup Final series with Montreal on Monday night (a game that can be seen on NBC 6), the Lightning will be just the ninth team in the history of the National Hockey League to win back-to-back titles.

Need a minute, Panthers fans?

While that may be a nauseating thought to those from the team based in Sunrise, one look at this past season might give Panthers fans a reason to smile.

In the 2020-21 season where Tampa Bay played the same seven teams in the regular season, who was the one team the Lightning had a losing record against?

The answer? YOUR Florida Panthers, who went 5-3 against a team regarded as maybe the best in the NHL at this very moment.

Now, Tampa Bay had the last laugh when they won the first round series between the teams in May - but the Panthers now know they can compete with the best in the NHL at this point. That fact leads to an interesting question:

Is Florida-Tampa Bay the next great rivalry in the NHL?

The sport has had some great ones in the past. Games between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings or the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have highlighted the NHL for decades.

But for this generation, the new blood of the NHL resides in the Sunshine State.

If you're the Panthers, you can build off of the play of leaders like Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau to go along with the play of younger stars like Anthony Duclair, Aaron Ekblad and Spencer Knight in goal.

If you're Tampa Bay, you are one win away from a second straight trophy with superstar players like Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and arguably the best goaltender in hockey, Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Does anyone remember how the final two games of the regular season and the playoff series went? It's a genuine fact these two teams - and fanbases, to be honest - do not like each other and the natural seeds of a rivalry are there.

Granted, Florida will need to make a deep playoff run soon in order for it to become a "real" rivalry to some. But, don't tell those rooting for Stanley C. Panther's team anything other than the team that plays inside Amalie Arena is the enemy.

Do everyone a favor, NHL: if the Lightning win the Cup and you're scheduling the games for next season, make the opener a showdown with Florida. Trust us, you won't be sorry.

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