Meanwhile, 12 of the 18 are again taking the Lightning to represent the East in the championship series and eight have them winning the second Cup in their 28 year history.
Very little respect is going to the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, each of whom could quite conceivably prove to be the best team in the same conference. Goaltending is the key, more important than ever before. After a five-month pause, even the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Jackets, Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers could have the guy who gets hot at the right time. Same goes for 12 teams in the West.
The point is, never before has the race for the Stanley Cup been so difficult to handicap. Never before has the race been so wide open.
The Lightning did reconfirm themselves as a favourite Wednesday, however, with a late Tyler Johnson goal that gave them a 3-2 victory over the Bruins. Tampa held a 2-0 lead until late in the second period, when the B’s, who were horrible in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers on Sunday, picked up right where they left off.
The Bruins, who looked more their old selves as the day went on, tied the game on goals that Andrei Vasilevskiy should have stopped. It probably didn’t faze his teammates, but it did serve as a reminder to the rest of us that goaltending remains the biggest question mark for the Lightning. While the Conn Smythe Trophy will likely go to the ‘tender for the Cup winning team, Vasilevskiy owns a 17-15 record in post-season play.