The Tampa Bay Lightning can set a franchise record with a victory tonight at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
The Lightning enter New York riding a nine-game win streak. One more victory will give them 10 wins in a row, a feat no previous Tampa Bay team has accomplished.
And yet, the Lightning are setting records at such a historic pace this season their current win streak barely registers on the list of achievements. That's the tradeoff when you're on pace to post 62 wins -- which would tie the NHL record for most wins in a season - and 130 points, a point total only three previous NHL teams have garnered.
"We've had a pretty good season team-wise, individual-wise, everything," Lightning forward Tyler Johnson said. "We're just trying to be the best team we can be and all the other records and stuff that comes with it just happens. We don't really focus too much on anything. I think it says a lot about our team, a lot about the character that we really don't care about that stuff. We only care about the end result. That's all we're really focused on."
Video: Stamkos on Bolts' desire to improve
And that's probably why the Lightning have been so successful this season. The records and milestones and individual awards don't matter all that much to them. They just want to win every time they take the ice, something they've done a lot of this season.
"I think it's just the feel of, okay, this is kind of our time," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We've been through a lot as the core of this team in terms of playoff runs and deep playoff runs and going through different experiences. But just the consistency of coming to the rink every day and wanting to improve and just wanting to win, it's very contagious around this dressing room in terms of the attitude that we have coming into games. I think we've learned even from last year's team where we kind of fell off in the second half a little bit. We didn't want that to happen this year, and so far we've done a good job of anytime there's been some losses it's just finding ways to improve and let's go out there and just win. It's kind of been our motto of just finding a way to win. It's not easy in this league, but it just goes to the depth and skill that we have in this room."
The Lightning have proven this season they can win any type of game. They've broken out to big leads and held on. They've rallied from multiple goals down. They've prevailed in tight, defensive-minded contests where one goal has been enough to win. They've outgunned opponents in shootouts.
The Lightning have amassed 48 wins overall on the season, which are the third most wins in a season in franchise history. And there are still 19 games left to play.
The franchise record for wins is 54, set last season. The Lightning should smash that total at their current pace.
Video: Tyler Johnson on finishing strong
Following his team's morning skate, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper was asked if he marvels at his team's current win and point totals and the numbers his team is projected to finish the regular season with.
"It's hard to comprehend just because there's so much runway left in the season," Cooper answered. "We've got a lot of tough opponents. We've got Toronto two more times. We've got Boston three. We've got Washington three. We've got Winnipeg. You go down, there's so many big teams, competitive teams that we have to play. Then you look at it's a tough time of year, and I can speak for ourselves in 2017 when you're playing teams that don't really have a shot to make the playoffs, we went on a magical run that year and almost made it with a bunch of guys that were called up because we had so many guys hurt. You can be an extremely dangerous team at that time. So, it's tough to keep going at this pace that we are. In saying that, in our last win we got 100 points and to hear that you're thrown in the same breath as the '77 and '78 Canadiens and the '72 Bruins, when you step back and think about that, it's kind of cool. But you don't see it coming when you're involved in it, until people bring up the historical background of what's happened. And so when you get to this point, it's like, wow, it'd be pretty cool if we kind of kept going. In saying that though, so much of our attention is in the details of the game and trying to keep the consistency going and that's what we have been able to do."