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Lightning Round: Welcome to the postseason!

The Lightning’s quest to defend the title starts tonight

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning

261 days. That's how long it's been since claiming the Stanley Cup in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are kicking off the campaign to defend their title with Game 1 against the Florida Panthers in the first round of playoffs tonight. For the first time in NHL history, two teams from the Sunshine State will meet in the postseason.

This season, however, the Lightning are not the main favourites. According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s predictive model, the Lightning have just a six percent chance to win the Stanley Cup and 50 percent to make the second round.

Meanwhile Dom Luszczyszyn’s model is a little bit more favorable to the Bolts and considers them as a first round favourite, while giving them a 10 percent chance to win the Stanley Cup. However, a lot of things depend on the current status of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, who have just returned after missing significant time due to recovering from injuries, and Victor Hedman, who reportedly has been playing through injury in the past month. Most of the current predictive models include them as healthy players.

Compared to last season’s model by Dom Luszczyszyn, the Lightning chances have dropped by 14 percent. This year’s biggest favourites are the Colorado Avalanche, who recently won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

Unlike last year’s playoffs, Bolts fans will have a chance to attend the home games of their favourite team. For the playoffs, the Lightning have expanded their fan capacity to 7,000 people. The Lightning players also seem excited that they don’t have to spend the whole postseason in the bubble and will be able to share those moments with their families.

Lightning Links

The Syracuse Crunch defeated the Rochester Americans in the final game of the 2020-21 AHL regular season, finishing the season in third place in the North Division.

Due to the fact that several players were recalled by the Lightning for the playoffs, the Crunch lineup included 12 rookies. Goaltender Tyler Johnson (another one) and defenceman Jack Thompson made their pro debuts last night.

The Orlando Solar Bears couldn’t beat the Florida Everblades for the second night in a row, losing 2-3 on Saturday night.

Yesterday’s Games

The 2020-21 NHL playoffs started with a game between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals. The Capitals took a 1-0 lead in the series after Nic Dowd’s goal in overtime.

Boston Bruins 2, Washington Capitals 3 (OT) — WSH lead 1-0

Today’s Games

New York Islanders @ Pittsburgh Penguins — Game 1

12:00 PM ET; NBC, SN, TVAS

Minnesota Wild @ Vegas Golden Knights — Game 1

3:00 PM ET; NBC, SN, TVAS

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Florida Panthers — Game 1

7:30 PM ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, BSFL, BSSUN