The Lightning couldn’t be stopped during the regular season, winning an NHL record-tying 62 games on its way to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Its 128 points were 21 more than its closest pursuers, the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames.
Is a Stanley Cup championship a mere formality, at this point?
Not so fast.
USA Today’s Kevin Allen identifies five teams he believes have “a reasonable shot” at beating the Lightning in a seven-game playoff series.
First, not surprisingly, is the defending champion Washington Capitals, who took down the Lightning in seven games in last season’s Eastern Conference final.
“The Capitals understand how to win it all,” Allen writes, “while the Lightning are still figuring it out.”
The team that eliminated the Lightning in the 2016 conference final, the Pittsburgh Penguins, also make Allen’s list.
As does the Lightning’s biggest division rival, the Boston Bruins.
“The Bruins consistency is their chief strength,” Allen writes. “They are the league’s No. 3 defensive team (2.59 goals per game) and their power play units are almost as dangerous as Tampa Bay’s group.”
Two of the teams, the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, play in the Western Conference. So, the Lightning would only have to face one, and only then in the Stanley Cup final.
The Predators “have the defense and goaltending to compete against any team,” Allen writes.
His case for the Blues is a bit more subjective.
“Every season, there seems to be a team of destiny,” Allen writes, “and the Blues could be that team this year.”