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 dropped in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before they were ousted from the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not having the ability to close things from the past few seasons, they remain among the elite in the NHL and should once more be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their run last season was that they won two playoff series and also attracted the eventual Cup winners into the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he’s 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 had been from 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa yields all its core players in the last season. The roster is filled with stars in their mid-20s, so that they still might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures chances for the season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could assert that this team is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades back, then in the East last last year, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be foolish to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup winners because the lockout, five of them dropped in a seminar final the season before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off your record 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 trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) in the Eastern Conference futures market as the Lightning attempt to make it back 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 played three straight Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You actually have to go way back to when the summit was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see both teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four First Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in branch futures markets this season, but should they slip even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is that it’s been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they went back to back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Complete 105.5
The Lightning are second to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark just once in the last ten years. The Capitals were the only team in the East to transcend this amount last season and with a couple divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in production, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.