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Lightning Round: second and third seeds play for a spot in the Finals

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2017-18 goes up against 2014-15

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
 CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Cedric Paquette #13 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks play in Game Six of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, we’re running a bracket to determine the best Tampa Bay Lightning team in franchise history. Each day, we’ll put two of the 27 teams since the inaugural season in 1992-1993 up against each other to determine a winner until we’re left with who the community thinks is the best version of the Lightning.

As expected, the 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are in the Finals for the Raw Charge Lightning Bracket Challenge. Not a surprise at all as they beat the fifth seed 2016 team.

The Matchup

However, today’s matchup is definitely not an easy answer. Sure, the 2015 made the franchise’s second ever Finals appearance, but it doesn’t mean it was a better team on paper and on the ice than the 2018 team. If these two teams were going up against each other in a seven game series, I don’t think I would immediately pick the one that went only one round farther.

Comparing the regular seasons, 2018 had four more wins (54) than their counterpart (50). The 2018 team finished first in the division and conference and genuinely had better players at every position. 100-point Kucherov, a better Stamkos, a better Hedman, Vasilevskiy had a better save percentage than Bishop, Johnson and Palat improved on themselves and were supplanted by Point and Gourde at the same time! Sergachev replaced Drouin. The whole defense was younger, faster, more complete.

The 2018 team made as much of a mockery of the second seed Boston Bruins as they did the wild card New Jersey Devils, beat them both in five games each. The kind of dominance that team had was hard to believe. They took it to seven games against the Stanley Cup winners, who beat the expansion team in five games for the trophy. If there was a real best-on-best series in that playoff, it was Bolts-Caps and the Lightning took it all the way to overtime.

It was impressive to see the 2015 team make it to the final, beating the Red Wings in seven, the Habs in six, and the Rangers in seven. But if you look at the rosters and results of those teams, it really shouldn’t have taken that long. At least Detroit, who were carried by their mid-30s stars playing an outdated, slow style. The Habs were Carey Price and nothing else, as they’ve shown in the years since. Those series shouldn’t have taken six and seven games if the 2018 team were playing in them.

But the 2015 team made the Finals.

The Vote

And now for the fun part. Choose which of these teams deserves to advance to the final on Wednesday.

Poll

Which is the better Tampa Bay Lightning team?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    2017-18
    (22 votes)
  • 40%
    2014-15
    (15 votes)
37 votes total Vote Now

Lightning Links

  • As you probably know, the AHL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs. Justin has the full story and what it means for the Lightning and Syracuse Crunch below. The organization is definitely taking care of each other in these times.
  • WE HAVE MORE TRANSCRIPTS AND TRANSLATIONS! In this one, Nikita Kucherov shares his origin story. And we really mean origin here.
  • The NHL launched their 2020 Fan Choice Awards. The Lightning were a boring team this year so apart from the mascot and arena being nominated (like all 30 other teams), only Victor Hedman (best pre-game ritual) and Bolt (best team puppy) were nominated for awards. We’re sorry we only focused on winning hockey games, okay!
  • This is a weird one. The LA Kings are cutting assistant GM Mike Futa loose. You might remember him in every GM rumor known to man from the past half decade in sports. The language we’re getting from people inside the industry here makes it sound like there’s more to it than meets the eye. I wonder what happened?