The University of Virginia basketball team was 31-3 in the 2017-2018 season. The were the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Before you could blink, they were eliminated by a 16 seed. The first time that had ever happened in the history of the NCAA tournament. It was an embarassment.
The next season, Virginia basketball won the NCAA National Championship.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning racked up 128 points. They went 62-16-4. It was one of, if not the, greatest regular seasons of all time. They were swept out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in four games by the Blue Jackets.
It's not that Tampa has been written off in some circles, but there's always going to be a faction of people in the media who say, "they've never done it before in the playoffs," as if that means that this can't be there year.
The Capitals had never done it, until they did. Nor had the Cavaliers. It's terrible analysis. Virginia choked in a huge moment in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The next year, they triumphed. One year doesn't have to have anything to do with the other.
The Lightning have regained Stanley Cup form as they've gone 22-2-1 in their last 24 games. That's a 147 point pace over an 82 game season.
They've got star power, depth, more sandpaper than people will give them credit for, and they've got arguably the best goaltender on the planet. What they did last regular season was no fluke. That was the best team in hockey.
I know that the playoffs last year were an unmitigated disaster for Tampa, but they're my favorites to come out of the East and win the whole damn thing.