Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games
The Lightning’s shortcomings the past few seasons are the consequence of not having the ability to win the big game. They were right there last year, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before 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 one of the elite in the NHL and should once again be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their conduct last season was that they won two playoff series and brought the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. Even the Lightning captain played in just 1 playoff match, but he is back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there is no reason to believe he can not return to the 90+ point player he had been from 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players in the last season. The roster is full of stars in their own mid-20s, so they 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 dropping in the Cup final two years back, then in the East final last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it would be foolish to dismiss them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a conference final the season before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off your list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting just 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 attempt to make it back to their third straight conference final. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s well worth noting that no team has performed three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to go way back to when the conference was called 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 — both the Lightning and Florida Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is your biggest favorite in division futures markets this season, but if they slip even a little, that +400 value about the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is the fact that it’s been over a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they moved 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 had 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 in the East to transcend this number last year and with a couple divisional opponents likely to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.