The Lightning’s shortcomings the past couple of seasons are the consequence of not having the ability to win the big 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 by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not having the ability to close things out the previous few seasons, they stay among 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 attracted the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. Even the Lightning captain played just 1 playoff match, but he’s back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there’s no reason to think he can’t 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 filled with stars in their mid-20s, so they still might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures chances for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
One could argue that this team is trending in the wrong direction after dropping in the Cup final two decades back, then in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it might be silly to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the year before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off your list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind only 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 market as the Lightning try to return to their third straight conference final. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, but it’s worth noting that no team has performed in three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You actually have to go way back to when the summit was called 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 teams 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 division futures markets this season, but should they slide even a bit, that +400 worth about the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Maybe another unexpected oddity is the fact that it’s been more than a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they went back to back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Total 105.5
The Lightning are next to just the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number seems too high. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark only once in the last decade. The Capitals were the only team in the East to transcend this amount last season and with a couple divisional opponents planning to see an uptick in production, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.
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