Tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Lightning and Panthers will meet for the first time this season. And make no mistake, there’s more than a mere two points at stake. The winner of the game will take the first step towards capturing the Governor’s Cup.
The what now?
From a press release on the Lightning’s website:
The winner of the annual season series between the two Atlantic Division and in-state rivals will be awarded the Governor’s Cup following the final matchup of the season and each team will make a donation to the other team’s youth hockey initiatives. In addition, both teams will provide tickets to local students for Governor’s Cup games and select players will take part in local reading programs throughout the season.
Governor Rick Scott said, “The Sunshine State is a national leader in sports, and the creation of the Governor’s Cup is great news for Florida hockey. This competition is an excellent way to highlight the opportunities that Floridians, and our visitors, have to enjoy all of the wonderful activities that our state has to offer.”
The winner of the Governor’s Cup is determined by the team with the most points during the four Governor’s Cup games (two points for a win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss, and zero points for a regulation loss). The first tiebreaker is goal difference.
OK, so the Panthers-Lightning rivalry doesn’t have quite the cachet of, say, the Florida-Florida State football rivalry, but hey, the NHL has only been in that state for a couple of decades. These things take time.
If you’re curious, the Lightning won the series in 2013, beating the Panthers in three of the teams’ five meetings.
There’s been a lot of movement between Montreal and Saint John’s lately and that continued on Sunday.
This time, it’s forward Daniel Carr who’ll be getting a stint with the big club.
Carr has no prior NHL experience.
The 24-year-old spent four years at Union College before joining the Canadiens organization as an undrafted free agent.
In his first season as a pro, Carr scored 24 goals (led the team) and 39 points in 76 AHL games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2014-15.
This year, Carr has seven goals and 15 points in 20 games.
Montreal is without forwards Torrey Mitchell, Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Semin.
Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.
It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.
Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.
The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.
Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.
They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.
You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.
With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.
Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).
In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:
Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.
Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.
So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.
The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.
No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.
He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.