The Lightning’s shortcomings the past few seasons have been the consequence of not having the ability to win the big game. They had been right there last season, but lost 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 previous few seasons, they remain among the elite in the NHL and should once more be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their run last season was that they won two playoff series and attracted the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played just one playoff match, but he is back to full health and, at only 26 years old, there’s no reason to believe he can not return to the 90+ point player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa returns all its core players in the last season. The roster is filled with celebrities in their mid-20s, so they still might be getting better. Following is 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 ago, in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it might be foolish to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup winners because the lockout, five of them dropped in a seminar final the year before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off the record of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are behind only the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) on the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are connected together 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 consecutive conference final. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s well worth noting that no team has played three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to go way back to when the conference was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see both teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in branch futures markets this season, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 worth about the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is the fact that it has been more than a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they went 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 market, but this number appears too high. They’d 97 points last season and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark just once in the last decade. The Capitals were the only team from the East to transcend this number last season and with a couple divisional opponents likely to see an uptick in production, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.
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