You thought the last installment (showing the Bolts on pace with the Wild, Thrashers, and Blackhawks) was depressing? A five-game losing stream will make it worse.
Right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are 12-14-2, -2 from a point per game pace at just over a third of the way through the season. To feel good about the playoffs, one would be advised to finish with 94+ points, which is +12 from a point per game pace. Meaning that a third of the way through the season, +4 is a bare minimum playoff pace. We're a good deal behind that right now, but we know that. There's ground to make up, but there's time to make it up.
So without further ado, let's see what 2010-11 team we're playing like and what we need to do to recover.
*The Edmonton Oilers are the only team in the NHL who was -2 at this point last season, with a 10-12-5 record. You don't want the rest of the season to go like theirs did, as the Oilers finished with just 62 points, well behind the rest of the league. Draft picks are cool and all, but we still have bigger aspirations.
*The Calgary Flames were a touch worse, with a -3 against the point per game pace and a 12-15-2 record, where the Bolts will find themselves if they get no points in Philadelphia tomorrow. The Flames actually did make a run to that 94 number that makes teams feel good about the playoffs, but that got them just 10th in the West, three points out, marking the first time in NHL history that a 94 point team missed the playoffs.
*The Florida Panthers were one of three teams a touch better, with a record of 13-14-0, and a -1. The Panthers stayed in the hunt into early 2011 but fell off late, finishing with just 72 points, last in the Eastern Conference.
*Also slightly better were the Carolina Hurricanes, with a record of 11-12-3. Like Calgary, the Canes would make a run that fell just short, finishing with 91 points and in 9th place in the East.
*The third -1 at this point last year was the Buffalo Sabres, with a record of 12-13-4. The Sabres had already begun to dig out of horrible start that left them 29th in the NHL, and would finish with 96 points, 7th in the East. They would fall to the Flyers in seven games in the first round.
Now, about what needs to happen to come back and make the playoffs. To hit 94 points, Tampa must be +14 from here on out. After a -2 in the first third of the season, the Bolts need to average +7 in the middle and final thirds. The good news is that such a pace is far from crazy. Ten NHL teams have sustained it through the first third this year, including--in addition to the usual suspects--both of last year's #8 seeds and three teams that failed to make the playoffs last year: the Minnesota Wild, the Florida Panthers, and the St. Louis Blues. For the record, last year's Tampa team was +12 through the final two thirds of the season after being +5 in the first third. So a reprise of last year's finish from mid-December on would yield a total of 92 points and put Tampa firmly on the bubble.