The Lightning’s shortcomings the past few seasons are the result of not being able to win the game. They were right there last season, but dropped Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they were ousted by 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 stay 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 year was that they won two playoff series and also brought the eventual Cup winners into the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just 1 playoff match, but he is back to full health and, at just 26 years old, there’s no reason to believe he can not return to the 90+ stage player he had been from 2009 to 2012.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players from last year. The roster is full of stars in their own mid-20s, so that they might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures chances for the season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this team is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades ago, 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 champions since the lockout, five of them lost in a conference 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) on the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are tied with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) from the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning try to make it back to their third straight conference closing. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, however it’s well worth noting that no team has played in three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to go way back to when the summit was called 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 teams from Florida — both the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four First Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the biggest favorite in division futures markets this season, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is the fact 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) at the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They had 97 points last season and surpassed 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 opponents planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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