Slip Sliding Away: Tampa Bay Lightning Lose Another Chance To Get Points

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIMarch 16, 2010

Another top NHL opponent, another loss for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay fell to the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 for a second-straight loss, as the Lightning continue to tackle the gauntlet of division winners and top NHL opponents.

After battles with Washington, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix, Tampa Bay will be at home on Thursday against the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres—followed by yet another showdown with Washington.

Phoenix is the only one of that group that is not leading its division—but its 91 points is better than any team in the Eastern Conference not named the Capitals.

It was another frustrating night for Tampa Bay, who fell behind 2-0, got a goal in the second period to make things interesting, but could never find the equalizer against Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

The Lightning are now behind six points to eighth-seeded Boston, who broke its own mini-losing skid that has left the Lightning with fleeting hope.

Still, the mounting losses and missed opportunities for points get more and more nerve-racking as the games dwindle down to a precious few.

With only 13 games left in the season, Tampa Bay would need to win 12 of those final 13 to make it to the mythical safe point of 92 points—the typical standard for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Still, there's hope for the Lightning yet. A meeting with Boston remains on the schedule, and the Bruins would need to win nine of their last 13 to reach the 92-point mark— meaning that the final mark for this season could be substantially lower than 92 points.

The last time a team in the Eastern Conference made the playoffs with less than 90 points was in the 2002-03 season, when the New York Islanders sneaked into the playoffs with a measly 83 points.

Boston has gone 5-4-1 in its last 10 games. If the Bruins continue to play .500 hockey and finish up, say, 6-6-1, that would put them at 87 points to end the year.

To beat 87 points, Tampa Bay would need to finish no worse than 10-3.

Of course, seeing that the Lightning's schedule still has division leaders and top conference teams on it, the fact that they have five road games remaining—where they have a league low of just 10 wins all season—and that they've gone 2-7-1 in their last 10 games certainly doesn't bode well.

Not to mention, Tampa Bay still has to climb over Atlanta and the Rangers to get to Boston.

Points are at a premium this time of year—but for Tampa Bay, they are as elusive as ever.