Tampa Bay Lightning's Long and Winding Road

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIINovember 12, 2010

Vinny and the Bolts Haven't Seen a Lot of Home Ice
Vinny and the Bolts Haven't Seen a Lot of Home IceKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice tonight for the sixth road game in a brutal stretch where they play 15 of 20 games on the road.

When the Bolts began this portion of their schedule, they entered a four game West Coast swing with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 5-2-1.

After last night's 6-3 loss in Washington, Tampa Bay is fourh in the conference at 8-5-2.

It's not so much the amount of road games the Lightning are facing—there's been many an NHL club that has faced a tough stretch—it's how they're grouped together that has Tampa Bay feeling the effects.

A four game west coast swing, followed by a home game, then a back-to-back road trip against two of the best teams in the NHL (Washington and Pittsburgh), followed by another home game, then three more on the road.

Its as if the NHL tried to stack the deck against Tampa Bay in the 2010-11 season. You can't blame the NHL scheduling committee on this one though, as the Lightning ASKED FOR THIS.

That's right, former GM Brian Lawton requested a road heavy first half of the season. We can only wonder why he did it. Maybe he was trying to sabotage then-coach Rick Tocchet. Perhaps the owners want the majority of their home games after the Buccaneers football season was over. Or maybe Lawton just hoping the team would bond together with so many road trips.

Whatever his rationale, it's another Lawton mistake that this time new GM Steve Yzerman can't clean up.

"The reality is, you're getting all these road games, one after the other, while some other teams are home, and you compare yourself with the points," Lightning coach Guy Boucher told reporters. "But the comparison is hard to make now, and it's going to be even harder in the next month.

"Right now for us is trying to get out of this jungle alive for the next month."

Injuries are mounting for the Lightning, who lost superstar Vincent Lecavalier last night for four weeks with a broken hand. They were already without Simon Gagne and Steve Downie. 

If the Lightning do survive this torrid road schedule, they could emerge a tighter, more determined hockey team with a bevy of home games to make up any ground they lost.