The last time an NHL team won the President’s Trophy – the team with the most points at the end of the regular season – and then went on to win the Stanley Cup was six years ago. It might finally happen again. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the only team in the league over 100 points (110) and are tearing up the opposition on the way to the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.
The Lightning was 53-13-4 through 70 games and have won eight of their last ten. Tampa Bay is the only team in the NHL to have clinched a playoff berth already. Will they continue to dominate and win this year’s Stanley Cup?
Most Certainly The Lightning is the highest-scoring team in the NHL. The Lightning average 3.80 goals per game, having scored 12 more goals than their closest competition (San Jose). Nikita Kucherov is the NHL’s leading scorer with 33 goals, 78 assists, and 111 points. Teammates Brayden Point (84) and Steven Stamkos (83) check in at Nos. 12 and 13 in the league.
Tampa Bay is also first in the league on the power play with 65 goals in 228 opportunities. That equates to an NHL-best 28.5 percent. The Lightning also leads the league in penalty kill percentage at 85.6 percent. Add in the play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy – 2.23 goals-against average, .931 save percentage – and the result is an NHL-leading goals differential of 1.20 per game. No other NHL team is above 0.75.
The Lightning is talented both offensively and defensively. They have only lost 13 games in regulation this season. Only once has Tampa Bay lost consecutive games in regulation play this season and that was back in November. It will take a near superhuman effort to defeat the Lightning in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Wait, History Says… Since the Lightning won their only Stanley Cup title back in 2004, it’s been nothing but heartbreak for Tampa Bay. The 2010-11 Lightning lost to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2014-15 edition of the Lightning made it one step further – the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost 4-2 to Chicago.
In two of the last three seasons, Tampa Bay has advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. On both occasions, they were beaten in seven games, once by Pittsburgh (2016) and just last year by Washington. The Lightning led the NHL with 53 wins last year, but ultimately found a way to lose. History has shown that the Lightning just can’t seem to win when it counts.
As talented as Tampa Bay is on offense, scoring seems to disappear as the Lightning go deeper into a series. Take the last two Eastern Conference finals as examples. In Games 6 and 7 of those series, the Lightning scored a total of three goals. Yes, that’s three goals in four crucial games. Taken a step further, Tampa Bay scored two in Game 6 in 2016 against Pittsburgh and then one is a Game 7 loss to the Penguins. Last year, Tampa Bay was shut out in back-to-back series-deciding losses to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.