The Tampa Bay Lightning have a full schedule and a ton of games to look forward to.
With the release of the 2013-14 NHL season, the Tampa Bay Lightning can circle October 3 as the beginning of their 82-game campaign. With a full season on the books, there is a lot to look forward to.
Much like last season―the 20th anniversary of the franchise―the Lightning enter this season with something to commemorate. Ten years ago, Tampa Bay hoisted the Stanley Cup and aim for similar success in 2013-14.
With the new four-division format, the Lightning move to the Atlantic Division. The division includes Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida and Ottawa. The Bolts will face each division team four times (two home, two road). Ottawa (three home, two road) and Detroit (two home, three road) get the additional game for this season.
The new schedule also brings each of the 29 other teams to the Times Forum. The new format and schedule allows each team to play every non-conference team twice (one home, one road).
For a total breakdown of the games:
Western Conference Opponents: 14 teams, two games each = 28
Eastern Conference non-division opponents: 8 Teams, three games each = 24
Atlantic Division Opponents: Seven Teams, four games each (additional game for two opponents) = 30
Total: 82 games
Here are the biggest games and stretches for the Lightning in 2013-14.
Steven Stamkos and the Lightning start the year against the Boston Bruins prompting flashbacks to 2011.
October 3 at Boston Bruins: Tampa Bay fans don’t need any reminder of the series between these two clubs in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. While one series does not make a rivalry, they are now division opponents.
Opening a season against Boston should be a fast track to a new rivalry. It’s early, but this is a great opportunity to see how competitive the Lightning will be in the standings against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
November 9 at Detroit Red Wings: One of the toughest places to play in the NHL is Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Tampa Bay makes its first appearance to the Joe as a division opponent here. The Lightning have a few ties to Detroit including general manager Steve Yzerman and recently-signed Valtteri Filppula.
A month into the season, this is the first division road trip. The Bolts start off in Detroit before heading to Boston and Montreal to finish the three-game stand.
April 13, 2014 at Washington: Southeast Division rivalries aren’t going to go away in one offseason. With the new wildcard system, the top three teams in each division make the playoffs. The next two spots go to the best records in the conference.
Washington and Tampa Bay should be competing for an a playoff spot. Closing out the season against the Capitals should do enough to continue this old feud.
The Lightning move to a new division with playoff berths coming at a premium.
Teams in Atlantic Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
Geographic and travel considerations aside, the Lightning move to an extremely difficult division for 2013-14. The Southeast Division had three teams finish in the cellar of the conference and only the Capitals made the playoffs last season.
The Atlantic Division boasts five playoff teams from last season, four from 2011-12 and five from 2010-11. They also have the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions and last year’s Eastern Conference Champion in Boston.
Speaking of the Bruins, the Lightning could build a new rivalry with the B’s. These teams have a short history together, but division races can spice things up quickly.
This division pits old school against new school and warm climates against the colder climates. Tampa Bay (1992) and Florida (1993) are both fairly young, while Detroit, Boston, Montreal and Toronto were all a part of the “Original Six.”
Competing in this division could help to further prove that hockey belongs in Florida.
Ben Bishop and the Lightning will be in for a fight just a month into the season with this brutal stretch.
November 9 to November 22 will be the toughest stretch of games for the Lightning all season. The Lightning are on the road for seven out of eight games in that time.
They face division opponents Detroit, Boston and Montreal on the road before coming home to host Anaheim. The Bolts finish that up and head to the West for games against Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim again.
San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston and Montreal all made the playoffs last year. Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim had three of the top four home records in the Western Conference last season and all return a solid core.
The Bolts had the worst road record (6-16-2) in the Eastern Conference last season and will need to find a way to pick up wins away from the Forum if they want to make the playoffs in coach Jon Cooper’s first full season.
Jon Cooper and the Lightning will look to get back to the postseason in the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup Championship.
Projected Eastern Conference Finish: 6th/7th
The Atlantic Division will make things difficult on the Lightning, but they should improve enough to make the postseason in 2013-14. Here’s how I see it stacking up in the Atlantic and why:
- Boston: There is little reason to believe the Bruins won’t be in the hunt for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The B’s finished fourth in the Eastern Conference last year―one point behind Montreal for the division crown. Tuukka Rask has a full NHL season under his belt and one of the league’s best defenses (3rd, 109 goals against in 2013) should keep Boston near the top.
- Toronto: Toronto has had a solid offseason picking up Jonathan Bernier from Los Angeles and David Clarkson from New Jersey. Bernier’s addition makes things interesting in goal, but if he and James Reimer can get in rhythm then look out. Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul should continue to light the lamp for the Leafs.
- Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay and Toronto are very similar. Both have goaltending duos now and an established top line. The Bolts have a lot of youth and will need to adjust to the physicality of the Atlantic Division, but they have enough skill to compete. Tampa Bay just has to finish top three to make the playoffs. That means Ottawa and Montreal will have to stumble. Buffalo and Florida will be fighting for respectability in the division.
- Montreal: Nothing against the Canadiens, but Carey Price’s struggles down the stretch really hurt confidence. P.K. Subban is solid and will try to keep things on the right track. Montreal should be in the thick of things at the end of next season