The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons have been the result of not being able to win the big game. They were right there last season, but lost in 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 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 year was that they won two playoff series and attracted the eventual Cup winners into the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he’s back to full health and, at only 26 years old, there is no reason to think he can not return to the 90+ stage player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa yields all its core players in the last year. The roster is filled with stars in their mid-20s, so they still might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing at the Cup final two decades back, in the East last last year, but given the makeup of the roster, so it might be silly to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup winners because the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the year before, so 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 tied together with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa paths both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) in the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning try to make it back to their third consecutive conference final. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, but it’s well worth noting that no team has played three straight Eastern Conference finals in a really long time. You actually have to return to when the summit was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see two groups from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four First Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is your biggest favorite in branch futures markets this year, but if they slide even a little, that +400 value about the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another unexpected oddity is 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 Complete 105.5
The Lightning are next to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They’d 97 points last season and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark just once in the past ten years. The Capitals were the only team in the East to transcend this number last season and with a few divisional opponents likely to see an uptick in production, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.
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