Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle. In this feature, one of our Bolts will face off against an opposing player of the team the Lightning face next. We will see how the two match up against each other, their respective teams, and against the rest of the league.
In today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle, it’s a match-up of Florida teams that is sure to be great. The Tampa Bay Lightning host their in-state rival Florida Panthers for the Bolts’ home opener at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In the Face-Off Circle, we have two centers that will probably line up against each other at some point during this game. For the Lightning, center Valtteri Filppula skates into the circle to meet Florida’s Scott Gomez. PUCK DROP!
Thirteen-year veteran Scott Gomez is by far the best player on this Florida Panthers roster. The only other recognizable name is goalie Tim Thomas, who just so happens to be hurt and will not play in tonight’s game. However, many fans remember Gomez from his seven years of playing with the New Jersey Devils. Gomez joined the Devils in the 1999-00 season when the Devils made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and defeated the Buffalo Sabres for the Championship. The Devils went on to two more Finals appearances with Gomez on the team, winning one and losing the other, becoming one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference in the early 2000s in the process. During Gomez’s time in New Jersey, he scored 116 goals and had 334 assists in 548 games played. Now that may not seem too impressive over a seven year span but Gomez turned out to be an assist machine, leading the Devils in assists every year but one.
When playing against the Lightning, Gomez seems to be all over the puck. He has scored ten goals in 45 games against the Bolts while also assisting on 28 other goals. Gomez has proven to be a challenge for the Bolts to defend and tonight will be no different. As Gomez leads the Panthers into Tampa Bay tonight, be on the lookout for Gomez to set up his teammates for shots on goal, as well as put some shots on net as well.
Valtteri Filppula is one the newest additions to this Lightning organization. With his fun-to-say name, Filppula brings along a veteran knowledge of the game. Filppula spent his first seven years as a part of the Detroit Red Wings, where he won a Stanley Cup championship in 2008. He and the Red Wings returned to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2009 in a rematch from the year before with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where they lost in seven games. Filppula signed a five-year, $25 million dollar contract with the Bolts this offseason and has already made an impact. In the first game of the year against Boston, Filppula score the Lightning’s first goal of the season and only goal of the game. He also assisted on Alex Killorn‘s game winning goal against Buffalo Tuesday night and scored the winning shootout goal against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Being a part of the Red Wings for Filppula meant playing primarily Western Conference teams, while facing the occasional Eastern Conference team here and there. He has only played four games against the Florida Panthers and has produced in those games. He has scored one goal and had two assists, with the lone goal coming during the 2007-08 season he won the Stanley Cup with Detroit. Now that VP is a part of the Bolts, he’ll get plenty of opportunity to continue that success against the Panthers, as these two teams will meet up four times this season.
Valtteri’s knowledge of the game allows him to be just like Gomez in the sense that both players can visualize and picture future plays happening in their head. They each can anticipate what position their teammates will be in as they push the puck up the ice. Gomez has shown that in the past with the Devils but has fallen off a little as he has gotten older. Filppula is considered the better player of the two, in my opinion, simply because of the fast style he likes to play in. He is young than Gomez and still plenty of years to grow and develop even more skill. With both players being centers, the two should face-off against each other at least one time in this game. Go Bolts!