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 game. They had been right there last season, but lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they were ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not being able to close things from the previous few seasons, they remain one of the elite in the NHL and should once more be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their conduct last year was that they won two playoff series and brought the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played just 1 playoff match, but he’s back to full health and, in just 26 years old, there’s 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 year. The roster is full of stars in their own mid-20s, so they might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures chances for the season.
Stanley Cup +1000
One could assert that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades back, then in the East final last year, 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 dropped in a seminar final the year before, so don’t cross Tampa off the record of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) on the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are connected together with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) in the Eastern Conference futures market as the Lightning try to make it back to their third straight conference closing. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, but it is worth noting that no team has performed three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You truly have to return to when the summit was called the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see two teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the biggest favorite in division futures markets this year, but should they slide even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Perhaps another unexpected oddity is the fact that it’s been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they moved back to back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Total 105.5
The Lightning are next to just the Caps (106.5) at the point total economy, but this number seems too large. They had 97 points last season 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 year and with a few divisional competitions likely to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.
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