By Gavin Woods ’22
The 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning are going to win this year’s Stanley Cup. While this is by no means a “hot take,” as the Lightning currently lead the Eastern Conference, the numbers speak for themselves. The Lightning put up a historic regular season tying the all-time record of 62 wins, which was previously held by the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning have also shown an impressive clutch factor boasting the second most road wins, 30, in NHL history: one shy of tying with the 2005-2006 Detroit Red Wings.
Because the Lightning finished the regular season as the top seed, they will be facing the wild card Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of playoffs. The Blue Jackets would not pose a major threat to the far sounder Lightning squad, if it were not for the world-class goaltending of Russian keeper, Sergei Bobrovsky, who is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. The Blue Jackets’ only shot at upsetting this powerhouse is if Bobrovsky can put up a career series. While this possibility seems unlikely due to the firepower of Tampa Bay’s offense, it is not uncommon for a keeper to become hot around playoff time.
Also in Tampa Bay’s favor over Columbus is the fact that during the regular season, the Lightning outscored Columbus 17-3. They also went 6-for-11 with the man advantage.
Barring a miracle from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Tampa Bay lightning will proceed to the second round to play the winner of the Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs series. This will certainly be an entertaining series, as Toronto will look to extend their tremendous success at home.
The following matchup will likely prove to be the most testing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they will face-off against the winner of the Metropolitan Division. After handily defeating the wild card Carolina Hurricanes, the Washington Capitals will likely prove they deserve a shot at defending the Stanley Cup, beating either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the New York Islanders. Because of the superior talent within the Eastern Conference, this will probably be the most challenging step of Tampa Bay’s journey to the Stanley Cup finals. If the Lightning can hold out over the Capitals, they will almost certainly defeat the best the Western Conference has to offer: likely, the San Jose Sharks.
Key factors to the Lightning finishing what has been dubbed “one of the best regular seasons in NHL history” by the NHL, rest in the stats of their superstar roster; particularly their first line consisting of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and this year’s Art Ross Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov. All three of these players led the team with goals scored (Stamkos had 45 and Kucherov and Point each had 41). All three of these players were key factors in the Lightning scoring the most goals out of any NHL team this year with 325 goals —36 more than the second place San Jose Sharks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have all of the tools for a successful playoff run, and, as seen by their success during the regular season, no team can really pose a serious enough threat to them. It is for this reason that I believe they will win the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.