By Reese Williams
The NHL season is in its final leg. The last day of the regular season is Saturday, April 6 and then the playoffs will start. The big story for the city of Tampa is that the Lightning have made the playoffs again for the second year in a row and again sit atop the Eastern Conference.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken the NHL by storm this year. They lead the league with 122 points and have already won the President’s trophy, which is given to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season.
Lightning player Nikita Kucherov has continued to impress this season. Kucherov has posted a league best 121 points in 77 games. This is the best performance that the NHL has seen from a player in decades.
Other than the Lightning, the Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights, St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and the Nashville Predators have all locked up a playoff spot for the 2018-2019 season. However, the Lightning are the favorites to win the cup due to the fact that they’ve dominated the league all year.
This feels a lot like déjà vu. Last year the Lightning weren’t the best team in the league, but they were the best team in the Eastern Conference and a favorite to win the cup. They made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals but bowed out to the Washington Capitals, who would go on to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Of course, like any other team who didn’t win the cup last year, the ultimate goal is to go home with the cup. But like most teams who enter the playoffs as the best team, they either win the whole thing without a problem or they get kicked out early due to the end of the season fatigue.
“The Lightning have been the best team all year and they have the best player in the league in Kucherov,” said Michael Pascento, freshman sports management major. “If they don’t win it all I’d be a little shocked but you never know what’s going to happen when the playoffs start.”
Not only do the Lightning have the best player in Kucherov, but they have a really good supporting cast with him. They have a top goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been outstanding this year. Plus they have some other top players in the NHL with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Ryan McDonagh.
However, some people believe that the Lightning will have a tough time again in the playoffs this year as well.
“The Lightning not only have the ability to win, but they also have the depth to do it,” said Luc Dallaire, freshman business major. “However, I feel like they will lose in the second round to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are just too physical of a team compared to the Lightning and they will win in seven games.”
This will be a defining year for the Lightning. Either they can finally correct their mistakes or they can turn around their fortune and finally be crowned the kings of the NHL once again.
Reese Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org