Surely there are some people out there who legitimately felt like the Florida Panthers and Atlanta Thrashers had some sort of rivalry. For the rest of us, it was like watching a battle between cats and dogs, though. In their own minds it was a ferocious fight, but everyone else just giggled at how adorable their bickering ended up being.
Things might be at least a little bit different starting this season, though. The Panthers’ renovation is looking pretty promising so far while their opponents are now the Winnipeg Jets, a team followed as frantically as the Thrashers were largely ignored.
That’s not the only thing that makes this an interesting budding rivalry, though. One could consider each squad Chicago Blackhawks off-shoot A and B; the Jets employ former Hawks like Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd while the Panthers spent big money to add from Windy City players such as Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky.
Add some hard feelings for (in my opinion unfairly) fired former Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay and it shouldn’t be surprising that the two squads’ Halloween match featured an almost scary level of competition. The Jets nabbed a 4-3 shootout win, but it wasn’t without its nastiness and a little controversy.
Revenge: Instead of Ramsay’s revenge, the big vengeance storyline developed in-game. Scottie Upshall landed a hit on Evander Kane that might gain some attention from the NHL, but Kane shook it off and scored two big goals.
Reunion: That wasn’t the only moment when blood started boiling, though. Former Blackhawk Jack Skille clobbered Tobias Enstrom with a hit that might have been legal, but looked rather painful. Byfuglien quickly fought a player he once skated alongside in Chicago and the results weren’t pretty for Skille.
Review: The Jets were on the ropes at 3-2 with less than a minute remaining, but Kane scored with 50 seconds left on a shot that was originally ruled down with a high-stick. The ruling was overturned and the game was sent into overtime, which eventually made way for a shootout ‘W’ for the Jets.
If Monday’s game is any indication, these games will be a lot more interesting than recent years. Here are highlights from that contest.