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Lightning Round: After weeks of voting, the finals of the best Bolts team bracket

The moment we’ve all been waiting for.

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Over the last few weeks, we’ve run a bracket to determine the best Tampa Bay Lightning team in franchise history. Each day, we put two of the 27 teams since the inaugural season in 1992-1993 up against each other to determine a winner. Today, we’re left with the final two to determine which group the community thinks is the best version of the Lightning.

After a bit of an upset in the semi finals yesterday with the 2017-2018 team eliminating the 2014-2015 team that made the Stanley Cup final and was one of the best teams in the NHL in terms of shot metrics, we get that 17-18 team up against the Cup winning 2003-2004 squad. Here’s a look at the bracket as we head into the finals.

The Matchup

Well, here we are. The finals of the Best Bolts Team Bracket. All tournament long, I expected this to be the 14-15 team against the 03-04 team. But y’all threw a curveball in the semi finals putting the 17-18 team into the finals. It’s a defensible decision even if not the one I would have made.

The 17-18 group lost in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Washington Capitals. They were up 3-2 with two chances to get back to the Stanley Cup Final but the offense disappeared and they could barely score in the final two games. The Caps went on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights and put all the “Ovechkin can’t win the big one” stories to bed forever. After the first round playoff sweep the following year, the Lightning now carry the “When will they win” label.

The 17-18 version of the Lightning was a great team deserving of their place in the finals. They finished third in expected goal share during the regular season placing them firmly among the best teams in the NHL that year. Nikita Kucherov posted 100 points for the first time in his career and was one of the best players in the league. He got plenty of help from a healthy Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman as well as the emergence of Brayden Point as a star.

The 2003-2004 team had a big three of its own with Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Brad Richards. Cory Stillman chipped in with 80 points of his own while Dan Boyle and Pavel Kubina led the way on the back end.

We don’t have advanced stats for the 03-04 team but they ranked third in both goal differential and shot differential during the regular season showing that they were also clearly one of the best teams in the NHL that season. This wasn’t a team that just got hot in the playoffs. They were among the best teams in the league all year and managed to come out on top of the pile in the playoffs. That’s a hard resume to argue with.

2017-2018 Lightning (54-23-5, 4th place)

2003-2004 Lightning (46-22-14, 1st place)

The Vote

Poll

Which is the better Tampa Bay Lightning team?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    2003-2004
    (26 votes)
  • 23%
    2017-2018
    (8 votes)
34 votes total Vote Now

Today’s News and Notes

The Montreal Canadiens signed Cam Hillis, their third-round pick from 2018, to an entry level contract.

Named captain of the OHL’s Guelph Storm for the 2019-20 season, Hillis had a great partnership with the team’s top scorer, Pavel Gogolev. After a rough draft-plus-one season in which he played just 33 games and recorded 22 points, the centreman blew past the point-per-game mark with 83 in 62 games. His 59 assists ranked seventh in the Ontario Hockey League.

To go with his offensive game, he also has a strong defensive presence, ranking third in the 2019-20 OHL’s Coaches Poll in that aspect, as well as faceoff ability. That complete game will serve him well as he joins the Laval Rocket next season, and likely a deciding factor in signing Hillis ahead of some of the other CHL forwards selected in 2018.

The Coyotes parted ways with CEO Ahron Cohen and CFO Gregg Olson. The moves suggest that the team’s new owner, Alex Meruelo, is making changes to restructure the business side of the organization. Cohen was well liked by the fanbase in Arizona particularly for his work in building the game in a non-traditional market. That’s something we can relate to here in southwest Florida.

The loss of Cohen will be felt by fans across the state, with his work in the community contributing to the team’s improved standing within Arizona. His determination to build links with local residents saw him mandate that employees of the organization spend 15 hours of their time a year doing voluntary community service.