When it comes to the NHL, every team starts out the season thinking they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The beginning of the season marks a fresh start, brings hope, and gives every team a fighting chance to win it all. Sure, that may be unrealistic for several teams in the league, but nevertheless, there is always a feeling that anything can happen and that come June, the Cup could be theirs.
With that said, the NHL season is a grind that has lots of games, many peaks and valleys, many questions, and everything else that comes with a season in professional sports. At the end, however, there is always one team that survives everything and wins it all.
This season it appears that the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing everything they can to be that team. With their 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on March 18, the Lightning clinched first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference while also locking up the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the NHL.
For the Bolts, this is only the first step getting towards the ultimate goal in the sport. They still have a lot of work to do, but should they do and get the following things, a Cup come June will be more than a possibility.
To win it all, here is what the Lightning will need to focus on doing:
Continue to Get Strong Goaltending From Andrei Vasilevskiy
The Bolts are lucky to have an elite netminder between the pipes in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
As of this writing he is 35-8-4 with a 2.26 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage, and six shutouts. Those are outstanding netminders for someone who does not get enough credit for the Lightning’s success over the past few seasons.
If this team is going to win a Cup, they will need Vasilevskiy to be fresh and at his very best. He certainly suffered from fatigue in the postseason last year because of how much he played during the regular season so hopefully that will not be a factor this time around.
Keep the Offense Coming
The Lightning are absolutely loaded on offense.
The team is currently first in the league in goals scored with 281 goals in 73 games. They are averaging close to four goals per game, which makes it very difficult for opponents to keep up with.
Guys like Nikita Kucherov (117 points), Brayden Point (87 points), and Steven Stamkos (82 points) need to continue to lead this group because as they go, so does the rest of the team. If these guys can continue to produce in the postseason and get some scoring from their depth, they are going to be a very tough team to beat come April.
Get it done on the Power Play
With the roster and offensive talent that the Lightning have, it is not a surprise that this team has the best power play in the league.
The club has converted 28.4 percent of their opportunities and are just about unstoppable with the man advantage. Guys like Kucherov (45 power play points), Stamkos (35 power play points), Point (33 power play points), and Victor Hedman (23 power play points) are all dangerous with the man advantage and they all make their opponents pay when they take a penalty.
Special teams is an important factor come playoff time as teams play smarter and do not take as many penalties. If the Bolts can cash in on their opportunities when they get them, they will be even tougher to beat.
Just Do It
Come April, the Lightning have to go out and do it. They have the talent, they have the roster, they have the firepower, and they have the smarts to win it all.
It’s time for the Bolts to get it done and lift their second Cup in franchise history.
*Photo: Sports Illustrated