The Lightning’s shortcomings the past few seasons are the consequence of not having the ability to win the game. They had been right there last year, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they were 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 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 season was that they won two playoff series and attracted 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, in only 26 years old, there’s no reason to think he can not return to the 90+ stage player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa yields all of its core players from last year. The roster is full of celebrities in their mid-20s, so that they might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures chances 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, in the East last last year, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be foolish to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off the list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) on 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) from the Eastern Conference futures market as the Lightning attempt to return to their third straight conference closing. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, but it’s worth noting that no team has played three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to return to when the conference was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see two teams 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 division futures markets this year, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another unexpected oddity is that it has 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 seems too large. They’d 97 points last season and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark only once in the past ten years. The Capitals were the only team in the East to surpass this amount last year and with a couple divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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