The Tampa Bay Lightning begin a crucial home stand tonight when the Ottawa Senators come to town which will kick off what should be one of the biggest stretches of the short season for the Bolts. Home games are always important but this season especially, playoff teams are going to have to have an extremely strong home record to be in contention down the stretch. The scary part is, the “stretch” is approaching fast. The Bolts need to have a good showing in every one of these home games because if they squander this opportunity, then the playoffs are going to be tough to make.
I know everyone will think that there is still a long way to the playoffs and don’t get me wrong, there is, but many statisticians have predicted that around 54-56 points will be needed to clinch a playoff birth. The Lightning have put themselves in a great position after only 3 games though, as they are currently leading the Southeast division with 4 points. Winning four out of five of these home games could propel the Bolts into a nice cushion after 8 games. This shortened season makes it a sprint so as long as the Lightning can continue to stay ahead of the pack, it will be a success. Luckily for the Bolts, the other teams in the division have gotten off to very slow starts, mainly the Washington Capitals who are a startling 0-4 with new head coach Adam Oates and star forward Alex Ovechkin. The Lightning will definitely take the losses from their rivals but they control their own destiny.
Tonight will be a great test for the Bolts because Ottawa was a huge thorn in our side last season as the Senators swept the season series against us. Coach Guy Boucher has announced that Anders Lindback will be starting for the Lightning so he will look to continue on his strong start to the year. Craig Anderson played last night for the Sens in Florida so rumors are that Ben Bishop will start for Ottawa. Look for this to be a battle of the “humongous big” goaltenders (as Ilya Bryzgalov would say) as they both are around 6 foot 6 inches tall. Looking ahead after Ottawa, the Bolts will take on the Philadelphia Flyers, the Florida Panthers, the Winnipeg Jets, and the New York Rangers. The urgency, relentlessness, and will power must be there right from the start because the Bolts need wins, and the home crowd wants to see them!