Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games
The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons have been the consequence of not having the ability to win the big game. They were right there last year, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they had been 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 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 attracted the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he is back to full health and, in just 26 years old, there is no reason to believe he can’t return to the 90+ stage player he was out of 2009 to 2012.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa yields all of its core players from last year. The roster is filled with stars in their mid-20s, so that they still might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures chances for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this group is trending in the wrong direction after dropping in the Cup final two years ago, then in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be foolish to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off your record of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) about the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are connected with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) from the Eastern Conference futures market as the Lightning try to make it back to their third consecutive conference closing. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, however it is well worth noting that no team has played in three straight Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to return to when the summit was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see two groups 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 your biggest favorite in division futures markets this season, but should they slip even a little, that +400 worth on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another surprising oddity is that it’s 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 next to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total market, but this number seems too large. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark just once in the past ten years. The Capitals were the only team from the East to surpass this number last season and with a few divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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