Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games
The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous few seasons are the result of not being able to win the big game. They were right there last season, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they were ousted from the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not being able to close things out the previous few seasons, they remain among the elite in the NHL and should once again be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their run last year was that they won two playoff series and attracted the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played just 1 playoff game, but he’s back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there’s no reason to believe he can’t return to the 90+ stage player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players from last year. The roster is filled with stars in their own mid-20s, so they might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures odds for the season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing in the Cup final two years ago, in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be foolish to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a conference final the year before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off the list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind only the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) about the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are tied together with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa paths both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) from the Eastern Conference futures market as the Lightning attempt to return to their third consecutive conference final. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s worth noting that no team has performed in three straight Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You truly have to return to when the summit was called the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see both teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in division futures markets this season, but should they slide even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another unexpected oddity is that it has been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they moved back to back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Complete 105.5
The Lightning are second to just the Caps (106.5) at the point total market, but this number seems too high. They had 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark just once in the last decade. The Capitals were the only team in the East to transcend this number last season and with a few divisional opponents likely to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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