It was just a matter of time before the Tampa Bay Lightning were officially recognized as the NHL’s best regular-season team in 2018/19 and they did that with a 4-1 home win over the Arizona Coyotes on March 18th. With their latest triumph, the Lightning clinched the NHL’s President’s Trophy as the top squad in the league. They also locked up the top spot in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division at the same time. It’s the first time in the franchise’s history the team has won the President’s Trophy and they also have one Stanley Cup to their name which was won in 2003/04.
Another milestone was reached during the contest as forward Steven Stamkos notched the 384th goal of his NHL career and 36th of the season to become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer ahead of Vincent Lecavalier. Tampa’s record for the season rose to 56-13-4 with the victory and they’ve now won five straight games. Winning the President’s Trophy means Tampa is guaranteed home ice advantage in each of their upcoming playoff series. They will kick off the postseason by playing the second wild-card team in the Eastern Conference.
Stamkos the Lightning captain, finished the game with 384 goals in 737 regular-season outings while Lecavalier managed to net 383 goals while playing 1,037 contests with the club. Tampa Bay clinched the President’s Trophy in their 73rd game of the 82-game season to become the second-fastest franchise in league history to clinch the silverware. The Detroit Red Wings managed to achieve the feat after 71 games in the 1995/96 campaign. Tampa also leads the league in goals as of March 19th with 287 while their 191 goals against is the fourth-lowest in the league.
The Lightning will be the favourite to win the Stanley Cup this spring with both the fans and oddsmakers. They will now attempt to become the ninth team in NHL history to win both the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season. However, the President’s Trophy wasn’t introduced until the 1985/86 season. Tampa Bay currently boasts five players on the roster with at least 20 goals this season as Brayden Point leads the way with 38. He’s followed by Stamkos at 36, Nikita Kucherov with 35, Tyler Johnson at 26 and Yanni Gourde with 20.
In addition, Kucherov leads the NHL in assists with 82 and in total points at 117. At the other end of the ice, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is tied for the league lead in wins with 36. Louis Domingue has also played well and has won 20 games himself as a backup goalie this season. Team-wise, Tampa Bay has been excelling on the power-play and penalty killing units as their success rate with the man advantage is 28.4 per cent and their penalty killing is rated at 85.7 per cent. There’s no doubt the Lightning deserves to be favoured once the playoffs face off, but as many former President’s Trophy winners can attest to, winning the regular season points race certainly doesn’t guarantee anything in the postseason.