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Will the Lightning hoist the Cup again? Our staff weighs in

How vital is Nikita Kucherov to Tampa Bay’s repeat chances? Who else in the Central Division may be a challenge?
Victor Hedman and the Lightning brought the Stanley Cup home to Tampa. Perhaps the team can win it again this year.
Victor Hedman and the Lightning brought the Stanley Cup home to Tampa. Perhaps the team can win it again this year. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 13
Updated Jan. 13

What’s in store for the league this season? Our staff has thoughts.

Lightning have a shot at the Stanley Cup if …

Can the Lightning win another Stanley Cup if Nikita Kucherov doesn't return this season?
Can the Lightning win another Stanley Cup if Nikita Kucherov doesn't return this season? [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]

Eduardo A. Encina, staff writer: Timetables come true and the Lightning are able to get the biggest playoff acquisition possible: a healthy Nikita Kucherov for the postseason.

Mari Faiello, staff writer: They can actually play through the season and Nikita Kucherov is healthy enough — and ready — to return. Special teams (especially the power play without Kucherov at the point) also will make an impact.

John Romano, sports columnist: If Nikita Kucherov comes back before the regular season ends. The Lightning cannot survive the postseason without him, and he’ll need time to find his groove.

Frank Pastor, assistant sports editor: They don’t forget the lessons from last season’s championship season, such as responsible two-way play, winning battles along the boards, creating traffic in front of opposing goaltenders and getting pucks to the net.

Biggest threat to Lightning’s Stanley Cup hopes

Few players may have been more valuable than goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy during the Stanley Cup run. He never came off the ice.
Few players may have been more valuable than goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy during the Stanley Cup run. He never came off the ice. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Encina: Any extended absence of Andrei Vasilevskiy

Faiello: The coronavirus

Romano: Victor Hedman turning an ankle

Pastor: Contentment

Which team will be the biggest surprise?

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save against Lightning center Anthony Cirelli during this July 29, 2020, exhibition game.
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky makes a save against Lightning center Anthony Cirelli during this July 29, 2020, exhibition game. [ NATHAN DENETTE | Associated Press ]

Encina: Panthers

Faiello: Panthers

Romano: Canadiens

Pastor: Hurricanes

Which team will be the biggest disappointment?

The Lightning's Alex Killorn skates past the Islanders' Anders Lee during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sept. 17, 2020.
The Lightning's Alex Killorn skates past the Islanders' Anders Lee during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sept. 17, 2020. [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]

Encina: Flyers

Faiello: Bruins

Romano: Islanders

Pastor: Stars

Which team will win the Central Division?

Lightning center Tyler Johnson takes a shot on goal during training camp in Brandon.
Lightning center Tyler Johnson takes a shot on goal during training camp in Brandon. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Encina: Lightning

Faiello: Lightning

Romano: Hurricanes

Pastor: Lightning

Which team will not advance to the postseason?

Is it possible Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Blue Jackets could miss out on the postseason?
Is it possible Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Blue Jackets could miss out on the postseason? [ JAY LAPRETE | AP ]

Encina: Blue Jackets

Faiello: Red Wings

Romano: Red Wings

Pastor: Red Wings

Which teams will play in the Stanley Cup final?

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, front, fires the puck as Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak covers in this Feb. 17, 2020, game. Could these teams meet deep into the postseason?
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, front, fires the puck as Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak covers in this Feb. 17, 2020, game. Could these teams meet deep into the postseason? [ DAVID ZALUBOWSKI | AP ]

Encina: Lightning, Avalanche

Faiello: Lightning, Avalanche

Romano: Capitals, Lightning

Pastor: Lightning, Bruins

Which team will win the Stanley Cup?

It's unanimous with our staff: Steven Stamkos and the Lightning should repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
It's unanimous with our staff: Steven Stamkos and the Lightning should repeat as Stanley Cup champs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Encina: Lightning

Faiello: Lightning

Romano: Lightning

Pastor: Lightning

Most outstanding player for the Lightning?

Brayden Point, left, and Victor Hedman are two reasons to be excited about this season.
Brayden Point, left, and Victor Hedman are two reasons to be excited about this season. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Encina: Brayden Point

Faiello: Victor Hedman

Romano: Victor Hedman

Pastor: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Breakout star for the Lightning?

Will we see bigger things this season from the Lightning's Mikhail Sergachev?
Will we see bigger things this season from the Lightning's Mikhail Sergachev? [ MARKO DITKUN | Special to the Times ]

Encina: Anthony Cirelli

Faiello: Alex Volkov

Romano: Alex Volkov

Pastor: Mikhail Sergachev

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