The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons have been the result of not being able to win the game. They had been right there last season, but dropped Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before they had been ousted by 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 run last season was that they won two playoff series and also attracted the eventual Cup winners into the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just 1 playoff game, but he’s back to full health and, in just 26 years old, there is no reason to think he can’t return to the 90+ stage player he was out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players from 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 assert that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades ago, in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it would be foolish to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a conference final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off the list 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 return to their third consecutive conference closing. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, however it is well worth noting that no team has played in three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You truly have to go way back to when the summit was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, if the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see two groups from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four First Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in division futures markets this year, but if they slip even a little, that +400 value on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Perhaps another unexpected oddity is the fact that it has been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they went back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Complete 105.5
The Lightning are next to just the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They had 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark just once in the past decade. The Capitals were the only team from the East to transcend this amount last year and with a few divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in production, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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