The NHL has greenlit a new divisional alignment for the upcoming 2021 season, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Central Division with some new - and old - friends. In this series, we'll familiarize (or in some cases, refamiliarize) ourselves with the Central Division foes. Today, a team the Blue Jackets have gotten quite familiar with in consecutive postseasons: The Tampa Bay Lightning.
All-Time Regular Season Record vs. TB: 32GP, 10-17-1-4 (W-L-T-OTL)
All-Time Playoff Record vs. TB: CBJ lead all time 5-4 (CBJ 4-0 series sweep in 2019 Eastern Conference First Round; TB 4-1 series win in 2020 Eastern Conference First Round)
Last Season vs. TB: 0-0-1 (Regular Season), 1-4 (Postseason)
Last Season Skinny
After being swept by the Blue Jackets in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it took the Lightning a little bit of time to find their confidence again: they started off ‘just’ 17-13-4, which was just three fewer losses than their entire 2018-19 campaign. But when they found their stride, it was back to dominance. Tampa Bay finished the shortened regular season on a 26-8-2 tear, and never went beyond six games in any of their postseason series en route to the second Cup in team history.
It was a relatively quiet offseason for Tampa Bay, who spent their entire Stanley Cup celebratory time figuring out how to get under the salary cap for the upcoming season. They moved defenseman Braydon Coburn and forward Cedric Parquette to Ottawa in exchange for goalie Anders Nilsson and former Blue Jacket forward Marian Gaborik, but both are on long-term injured reserve and will not play this season. Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire regular season following hip surgery, which was a cap-related blessing in disguise for them. Excluding Kuch, the Lightning will bring back their top 12 point leaders from last season.
- No one-way NHL free agency contracts were signed, nor were any trades made in which Tampa received an NHL player who intends to play this season.
- F Nikita Kucherov (Hip Surgery; will miss regular season)
- F Cedric Paquette (Traded to OTT)
- D Braydon Coburn (Traded to OTT)
The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely dominated in the bubble on the way to their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, and they're the odds on favorite to make it back to the Stanley Cup this season. Columbus can certainly frustrate the Lightning - we've seen that before - but despite salary cap issues, the Lightning are still a loaded team on all sides of the puck and merely frustrating them isn't going to be enough to stop the Lightning from a Central Division championship in 2021.