The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous few seasons are the consequence of not being able to win the game. They were right there last year, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before they had been ousted from the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not having the ability to close things out the past few seasons, they stay among the elite in the NHL and should once again be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their conduct last season was that they won two playoff series and also brought the eventual Cup champions to the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just 1 playoff match, but he is back to full health and, at only 26 years old, there is no reason to think 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 from last season. 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 upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing in the Cup final two decades back, in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it might be silly to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup champions since 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 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) in the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning attempt to make it back to their third consecutive conference final. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, however it’s well worth noting that no team has played three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You truly have to return 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 odd is it to see both groups from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four Original Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the biggest favorite in branch futures markets this season, but if they slip even a little, that +400 value about the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Perhaps another unexpected oddity is the fact that it has been more than a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they moved 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 economy, but this number seems too large. They had 97 points last season and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark only once in the past decade. The Capitals were the only team from the East to surpass this number last season and with a couple divisional opponents planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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