The Lightning have had there fair share of troubles whether it be the misfortune of injuries, a tough road schedule... a goalie that was... and now definitely isn't. You name it and it has happened to the Bolts so far in the 2011-2012 campaign. A lot of negativity and a general feeling of, was this the team that played in May last year, have filled the St. Pete and now Tampa Bay Times Forum throughout the first half of the season. There have been many "must win" games so far this season, but none of the games up until this point mean as much as these next three homes games. I told everyone who has inquired about the Lightning, if the Lightning are able to come out of January at .500, there is no reason they wouldn't be able to make a run at the playoffs, quite simply due to the number of home games remaining, and the number of games left to play the teams that stand directly between the Lightning and a spot in the NHL playoffs. We get into detail of what this week means to the Lightning after the jump.
The Lightning's next three games, all at home, are as dated.
- 1/31 - Washington @ 7:30pm
- 2/2 - Winnipeg @ 7:30pm
- 2/4 - Florida @ 7:00pm
Now assuming the unimaginable were to happen, that being Washington, Winnipeg and Florida were to lose all of the games that they are playing this week. This of course complimented by the Lightning winning 4 more in a row extending their streak to 8 games in a row, this also includes a win one week from now against the LA Kings at home. They could potentially be two points out of a playoff spot and the lead of the Southeast Division. Read into this what you will Lightning and hockey fans abroad but if there were ever to be a week to make it or break it, this is absolutely it. Imagine if this were reversed and the Lightning were to drop all 3 of these games this week. I'm nearly certain that would be nails in the coffin for the Bolt's playoff hopes as they are not the same team as they were last year due to many of the misfortunes listed earlier. Their chances of pulling off another even longer winning streak would be astronomically low and even then that might only put them just in the hunt for the 7th or 8th spot in the Eastern Conference.
We all know coaches hate the standings and don't like to make mention of it, but if the Lightning need any extra motive to dominate these 4 games at home following the All-Star break they should look no further the the next 3 games they play and the standings of the 3 teams that are keeping them from playing hockey into late April.
Here are the standings prior to all games being played today, 1/31.
|Southeast Division ||W||L||OTL||Pts|