Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games
The Lightning’s shortcomings the past couple of seasons have been the consequence of not being able to win the big game. They were right there last season, but lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before they were ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not being able to close things out the past few seasons, they stay one of the elite in the NHL and should once more be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their run last year was that they won two playoff series and also brought the eventual Cup champions to the brink without Steven Stamkos. Even the Lightning captain played in just one playoff game, but he’s back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there is no reason to think he can not return to the 90+ point player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa yields all its core players from last season. The roster is full of stars in their own mid-20s, so that they still might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
One could assert that this team is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades ago, then in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it would be silly to discount them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup winners because the lockout, five of them dropped in a conference final the year before, so don’t cross Tampa off the list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) on the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are connected with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) in the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning try to return to their third consecutive conference final. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s well worth noting that no team has performed in three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You truly have to go way back to when the conference was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see both groups from Florida — both the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four First Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in branch futures markets this year, but should they slip even a bit, that +400 worth on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is that it has been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they went back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Total 105.5
The Lightning are second to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number seems too high. They’d 97 points last season and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark only once in the last ten years. The Capitals were the only team from the East to transcend this number last season and with a few divisional opponents planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.
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