The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons have been the result of not being able to win the big game. They were right there last year, but dropped 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 among 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 attracted the eventual Cup champions to the verge without Steven Stamkos. Even the Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he is back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there’s no reason to believe he can’t return to the 90+ point player he was out of 2009 to 2012.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa yields all its core players from last season. The roster is full of celebrities in their mid-20s, so they might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could assert that this team is trending in the wrong direction after dropping in the Cup final two decades back, then in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it would be foolish to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a seminar final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off the 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 paths both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) in the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning try to return to their third consecutive conference closing. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s worth noting that no team has performed three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You truly have to go way back to when the conference was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see two teams from Florida — both the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the biggest favorite in branch futures markets this year, but if they slide even a little, that +400 value about the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Maybe another surprising oddity is the fact that it has 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 second to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number seems too high. They’d 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 transcend this amount last season and with a few divisional competitions likely to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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