Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games

The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous couple of seasons have been the result of not being able to win the big game. They had been right there last season, but dropped Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they had been ousted from the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not having the ability to close things from the previous 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 conduct last season was that they won two playoff series and attracted the eventual Cup champions to the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played just one playoff match, but he is back to full health and, in only 26 years old, there is no reason to believe he can’t return to the 90+ point player he was out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa yields all of its core players from last year. The roster is full of stars in their mid-20s, so that they might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures chances for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this group is trending in the wrong direction after losing in the Cup final two decades ago, in the East last last year, but given the makeup of the roster, so it would 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 season before, so don’t cross Tampa off the record of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting only the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) about 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 straight conference closing. This franchise has won the summit twice in its history, but it’s worth noting that no team has played in three straight 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 final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see both 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 your biggest favorite in division futures markets this year, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last year’s division winner, is an excellent 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 to back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Total 105.5
The Lightning are next to only the Caps (106.5) in the point total market, but this number appears too high. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark only once in the past ten years. The Capitals were the only team in the East to surpass this number last year and with a couple divisional competitions likely to see an uptick in production, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.

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