Saying the Tampa Bay Lightning's road trip ends tonight at Canadian Tire Centre against the Ottawa Senators is factually correct but at the same time, not entirely accurate. The Bolts are living a stretch of 11 out of 15 games on the road.
Ottawa is already at 64 games played and mired in also-ran status; not horrible or truly out of contention but they have 5 points between them and the Pittsburgh Penguins (who hold the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference). Pittsburgh holds two games in-hand on the Senators too, which adds to the competitive complication for the Senators. It's not like the club didn't think to try improving themselves (which may help them make the playoffs) before the trade deadline passed on Monday. No, the Senators shuffled deckchairs on deadline day but trade season isn't about trades on the exact day of the deadline but deals before the deadline.
The major move went down February 9th - the day after Ottawa beat Tampa Bay -- as the Senators partook in a nine-player deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Did it boost the Sens though? They've gone 5-3-1 since the deal went down, but they've only moved up one spot in the conference (they had been ranked 13th in the Eastern Conference after play ended on February 9th, as of this writing they are 12th in the conference). At 64 games played, Ottawa is basically just as far/close to contention as they were; on the outside looking in but in striking distance if luck comes for an extended visit.
For the Bolts, this is game number 64. They stand 2 points in front of the Boston Bruins in the division standings and 2 points behind the Florida Panthers for the Atlantic Division lead. The Panthers are playing in Colorado tonight and if the chips fall right - a Lightning win, a Panthers regulation loss - the Bolts can take over the Division lead (by way of having more total victories though the clubs would be tied in points).
There's been a lot of talk this season with regards to the Lightning's goal-scoring "drought", and the fact that there are two 50-point scorers on the roster and a sudden drop after that seems to reinforce the notion. The thing is, there's another term for it but it's going in a direction not often looked in that fashion. Efficient is something Tampa Bay's offense is good with - producing and being responsible. Yes, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lead the team in points dramatically as well as goal scoring specifically (28 and 24 goals, respectively, between the two aforementioned Bolts; next on the club is Ryan Callahan with 12... yikes) but the team has a knack of limiting opponents production. If you've been reading these previews regularly this season, you know I bring up goal differential on the norm: The Lightning has a plus-24 differential as it stands: 175 goals-for, 151 goals-again. That's not as great as Florida's numbers (174-148) or as potent as the Washington Capitals (plus-60, need I say more?) but it does show the team keeps it close and lands on the right side of the final score. That's not all the doing of Ben Bishop in the crease but it is a cohesive unit that's doing the job (which includes solid play in goal to go along with a great effort elsewhere).
The efficiency the Bolts need in game 64 is their 8th win in a row. The Sens need to thwart it if they want to keep their playoff chances breathing.