By the time Lightning head coach Guy Boucher tells his players what time the teams charter leaves for their next away game we will know who won the super Bowl, baseball’s spring training will be in full swing and College basketball will be getting ready for March Madness.
The scheduling God’s have looked upon the Tampa Bay Lightning and blessed them with the best possible case scenario.
Guy Boucher’s team will have had 35 straight days of eating home cooked meals and sleeping in their own beds during the dog days of the NHL’s season.
The Bolts 12 game home stand is a rare event in the NHL. It is so rare that the last team to do this does not even exist. The California Golden Seals played 12 straight home games at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Arena back in 1975.
The Seals were a team based in Oakland from 1967-76. They were not a good team and during the stretch of 12 home games from Nov 28-1975 through Dec 28-1975 managed just a 4-7-1 record.
Guy Boucher must feel like a rich kid on Christmas Eve, he knows the possibilities of a great outcome are in his favor but he still knows that it was a long year and Christmas morning has not quite arrived.
In playing 12 straight home games, the Lightning will have a chance to put more than a little distance between themselves and the heel nipping Washington Capitals.
Currently the Bolts lead the NHL’s Southeast division with 65 points are the second seed in the NHL’s eastern Conference. Tampa is 6-4 in their last ten games and is in the midst of a four game winning streak.
They currently lead Washington by just three points as the Caps get set to host the New York Rangers tonight at the Verizon Center in the nation’s capital.
The only required travel any Bolt will have to endure will be this coming weekend when Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos travel to Raleigh, NC to play in the All-Star Game.
Boucher knows it will be tough to keep his team locked in and focused for 35 days. Being home tends to relax players a little more and when relaxed focus can be lost.
Boucher was recently quoted as saying that one of his Drummondville teams once had a month-long home stand and, in his words, “it was our worst stretch of the season.”
I went back and looked for the stretch Boucher mentioned with Drummondville and while I was not able to find those particular games, I did come across a 10 game home stand he coached for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL back in 2010.
Bolts fans should feel good in knowing that Boucher kept his young hockey team focused over that 21 days stretch as his Bulldogs went 9-1 on the home stand.
This current stretch of home games began with the Lightning’s 7-1 thrashing over Atlanta on Saturday night.
In beating the Thrashers, the Bolts swept the season series and moved their Southeast division record to an astounding 10-4-1.
Further proof that the Lightning is headed for a great home stand is their record at the Times Forum. The Bolts are 15-4-2 on home ice this season and have won eight of their last 10 home contests, dating back to December -4.
Of the ten teams slated to visit the Times Forum in the next month, just four are current playoff teams. The Flyers who visit twice in the next 11 home games are the best team in the NHL and have lost just five times on the road this season.
Aside from the Flyers, the other playoff teams to visit will be the Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes, and Washington Capitals. Their brewing rivalry with the Capitals continues on February-4.
The Lightning continues their home stand tomorrow against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are losers in four of their last five and will stop in Carolina to play the Hurricanes tonight.
Tomorrow’s game will be the last for the Lightning before the All-Star break.
Starting the home stand with two wins and then getting some time off before the Broad Street Bullies (Flyers) come to town next Tuesday night would be the perfect start on this home stand for Boucher and his team.
In fact, the Flyers have just a four-point lead over the Bolts. With Philadelphia visiting twice over the next month, the Lightning could be headed to play the Rangers on February-27 as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.
That is exactly how Guy Boucher and his team can repay the scheduling Gods for blessing his team over the next 35 days, by being the best team in hockey after this record home stand is finished.