So, what does all of this mean? Where will Tampa finish this season? Will they be fortunate enough to make as deep a playoff run as they did last year? Will they be able to push their way back to their first Finals appearance since the lockout?
If the Bolts hope to show the hockey world that they are ready to take a drink from Lord Stanley’s mug once again, they will need to show up BIG in these games:
1) Sat Oct 8, 2011 @ Bruins – This first of four match-ups against the reigning champs comes on the heels of the Bolts’ opening night game at Carolina. Since the completion of the recently updated St. Pete Times Forum, fans in Tampa have been itching to catch their team on home ice. However, they will have to wait a little while longer, but don’t expect that to impact their commitment to this team and to them screaming at their TV’s as they watch their boys stick it to the B’s! This is a huge game for the Lightning, and they will do well to set the tone early on for this win as well as their season.
2) Panthers – Alright, let’s all be honest here, those last two preseason games are not exactly what we’ll be expecting in any of the six regular season games. Florida GM Dale Tallon has put together a formidable team in Sunrise, and the Bolts will have their work cut our for them in order to maintain their in-state dominance.
3) Tue Jan 10, 2012 vs Canucks – It is my belief that the Bolts would’ve finished off the Canucks on fewer than seven games, but we will never know now. However, don’t expect these players in Tampa to treat this one time shot at last year’s runner up like it is Game 7 of the Finals! I would expect this to be the best game the Bolts have against a Western Conference team, and I would also say that a win or loss here will have far-reaching implications. Win, and gain the confidence you need to finish out the regular season strong. Lose, and face the fears you’ve suppressed since the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals… you may not have what it takes. In short… big, BIG GAME!!!
4) Penguins – It’s obligatory. If Crosby and Malkin make it for any of these four games, then there will be blood. Heck, if they don’t make it to any of these games we will be watching a pseudo-replay of last year’s Eastern Quarter Finals. I’d expect these to be physical, high-flying games with only vengeance and pride as a backdrop. No major implications, but definitely going to be important conference-positioning games.
5) Capitals – Word association game anyone? I say Washington… you say? Conundrum? Yawn? Letdown? Who cares? Whatever you may say, their fans are crazy-supportive, and their roster is absolutely stacked! They’re a contender if they could just get their pride under control. Once they do that, the East could be all theirs. However, this being a Bolts blog, I’m going to say that Tampa Bay WILL prevent the Caps from going anywhere. Division rivalries are fun, and these games will be blood pressure spikers. Tune in, and GO BOLTS!!!
So, there you have it; Bolts By The Bay’s version of FanSided’s Around The League In 30 Days.
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