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Lightning are Elite but are Coming up Short in Big Games

The Lightning’s shortcomings the past few 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 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 again be in the mix come playoff time.

The silver lining to their run last season was that they won two playoff series and brought the eventual Cup champions to the brink without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff game, but he’s back to full health and, at just 26 years old, there’s no reason to think he can’t return to the 90+ point player he was from 2009 to 2012.

Much like the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players from last season. The roster is full of stars in their mid-20s, so they still might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.

Stanley Cup +1000

One could argue that this team is trending in the wrong direction after losing in the Cup final two years ago, then in the East final last year, but given the makeup of the roster, it would be silly to discount them. Also worth considering — of the 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them lost in a conference final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off your list of Cup contenders.

The Lightning are behind just 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 market as the Lightning attempt to make it back to their third straight conference final. This franchise has won the conference 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 go way back to when the conference was called the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three straight appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.

Atlantic Division +130

How odd is it to see two teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — ahead of four Original Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the biggest favorite in division futures markets this season, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 value on the Panthers, last season's division winner, is an excellent bargain.

Perhaps another unexpected oddity is 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 just the Caps (106.5) in the point total market, but this number seems too high. They had 97 points last season and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark just once in the past decade. The Capitals were the only team in the East to surpass this number last season and with a few divisional opponents likely to see an uptick in production, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.

2016 Tampa bay Lightning Futures Odds
Stanley Cup+1000
Eastern Conference+550
Point Totals105.5

Odds as of October 7 at Bovada