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The gap in games played and when it will finally shrink

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When, oh when will the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings get around to making up all these "games-in-hand" on the Lightning?!? Relax, we'll tell you.

At the top of the Atlantic Division standings, the Lightning and Canadiens are close. We'll know exactly how close when some of these games-in-hand are finally made up.
At the top of the Atlantic Division standings, the Lightning and Canadiens are close. We'll know exactly how close when some of these games-in-hand are finally made up.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

If you're watching the standings on a daily basis (and if you aren't, you will be soon), you may be troubled by the wide gap in games played between the three teams vying for the Atlantic Division title. As you know, each un-played game is a "game-in-hand" and represents between zero and two points each that could eventually be claimed by that team, depending on the outcome of those games when they're finally played. Throughout the season, there are gaps of one or two games played between teams that ebb and flow over time and eventually, everybody plays all 82 games on their schedule. The disparity between the Lightning and Canadiens is two games and it's four games between the Lightning and Red Wings. Meanwhile, this is what the standings look like:

Standings22215

That means the Lightning could end up as many as five points behind the Canadiens and four behind the Red Wings when everything evens out. For some of us standings watchers, these games-in-hand, being as they represent the unknown and unknowable, are a source of considerable anxiety, and it seems like Montreal and Detroit have held this considerable advantage in games-in-hand forever! Gyah! When are things going to even out and we'll be able to look at the standings without a calculator, a bottle of antacids and some soothing music in the background? Soon! Pretty soon. A few weeks. More than a month. Pretty much, the very end of the season. Sorry.

Today is February 22nd and the Lightning will play their 62nd game of the year today when they visit the Colorado Avalanche. The Canadiens have played 59 and won't play their 62nd until next Saturday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams were close to even as of December 23rd, when the Lightning had played 36 to the Canadiens' 35. However, between then and January 13, The Lightning logged nine games while the Canadiens only played six and the bubble was blown. Montreal will be picking up the pace soon and the two teams will be on equal footing once again after March 17 when both will have 71 games under their respective belts.

As February began, the Red Wings had played 50 games to the Lightning's 51. However, they played only four games between the beginning of the month and the 15th, during which Tampa Bay rang up seven. It's going to take longer for Detroit to make up that gap with both teams having played 80 games as of April 7th, and that's with Detroit playing three games in four days while the Lightning will have enjoyed the third of four days off between games.

Now you know where we are, how we got here and when we're all going to be...some place else, but all together, I guess. Pass the Tums and crank up the Mantovani, please.