Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games

The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons are the consequence of not having the ability 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 being able to close things out the past 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 conduct last year was that they won two playoff series and attracted the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he’s back to full health and, at just 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.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa returns all its core players from last season. The roster is full of celebrities in their mid-20s, so they might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures odds for the season.
Stanley Cup +1000
One could assert that this team is trending in the wrong direction after dropping at the Cup final two decades back, then in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be foolish to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup winners because the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the year before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off your record of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting 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) in the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning attempt to make it back to their third straight conference closing. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, however it’s well worth noting that no team has performed in 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 straight appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see two groups from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four First Six teams on 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 worth about the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another unexpected 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 Total 105.5
The Lightning are second to only the Caps (106.5) at the point total market, but this number appears too high. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark only once in the last decade. The Capitals were the only team from the East to surpass this number last year and with a couple divisional competitions likely to see an uptick in production, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.

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