The first puck drop of the 2019 NHL season for the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning is this evening at 7 p.m. in Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena. The Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "feud-sports" will have its focus on these three story lines on and off the ice in the opener.
Changing of the Guard
Both Florida clubs were busy in the offseason, in free agency and in the front office alike. The Panthers have a new coach in Joel Quenneville who will make his debut in the season opener against the Lightning. Quennville, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks was brought into the fold in Sunrise to lead the young Panthers to glory. Quenneville has tallied 890 regular season wins in the NHL, which is good for second most in the league’s history. Since the salary cap was introduced, he is the only coach to hoist the Cup three times. To help Quenneville, Florida also signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70M contract. Bobrovsky leaves the Columbus Blue Jackets, and told CBS in the offseason that there was “zero chance” that he would return to Columbus. The 31-year-old Russian goaltender has won the Vezina Trophy twice, which is given to the leagues top goaltender. Things were shaken up in Tampa as well, as the Lightning are now without their General Manager and Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman. Yzerman helped lead the Lightning to their best regular season, notching 50 wins and 108 points.
Can Kucherov keep fire?
Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy in 2018, which honors the leagues points leader, annually. Kucherov tallied a personal and franchise high 128 points. (41 goals, 87 assists) Coming off an All-Star appearance and a historic season, the Russian skater leads the Lightning into the tempest that is the NHL regular season tonight versus their instate foe, the Florida Panthers. The Lightning are the odds-on favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2019, per vegasinsider.com. To make that dream a reality, Kuch will need to get off to a hot start. In last year’s season opener, the Panthers held Kucherov in check. However, in the remaining three games Kuch tallied 9 points. Keep an eye on 86 tonight for some opening night magic from the 2019 Hart Trophy winner.
Speaking of points…
The Lightning were able to resign Brayden Point this offseason after lengthy negotiations that were halted by a 3 year, $6.75M deal to bring Point back to Amalie Arena. The 23-year-old Canadian will remain in the Lightning’s center rotation, as he has been since being drafted by the team in 2014. Point accompanied Kucherov in the top fifteen in points last year, tallying 41 goals and 51 assists, good for 12th in the league. Resigning Point to keep the trio of him, Kucherov and Stamkos together was key for the Lightning’s Cup hopes. Our eye’s will be on Point this evening as his 2019 campaign gets underway.
Sean Hawes is a contributor to Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "feud-sports". You can follow him and the rest of the team on Twitter below.