It's certainly been quite a month for the NHL as the league, teams, and players adjusted to the arrival of the contagious Omicron variant. We've seen more regular testing, more positive cases, more postponed games, the decision not to send NHL players to the Olympics, and the addition of Taxi Squads.
And through it all, the Lightning have persevered. Here's a look at where things stand as Tampa Bay approaches the halfway point of the regular season.
Standings Position: The Lightning have 53 points and are tied with the Florida Panthers atop the Atlantic Division and overall league standings. But the more significant comparison is not to the teams close to them in the Eastern Conference. It's at the playoff cut line - the line that separates the top eight teams from the bottom eight. There is a significant gap between the clubs on either side of that line. With 40 points, the Boston Bruins occupy the second wildcard. Detroit, as the ninth place team, trails by only three points. But the Red Wings have played five more games than the Bruins. Since there is such a disparity in games played between teams, we can look at points percentage as a way of comparing apples to apples. The eight teams above the cut line all have a points percentage of .625 or higher. Detroit is only at .500 and the other seven teams are below that number. In other words, the Lightning, through 38 games played, have put themselves in an excellent standings position.
Games Played: The Lightning had their game on Monday in New Jersey postponed. As things currently stand, they have three games that will need to be made up, with all of them to be played on the road. They'll need to make another trip to the west for the other two make-ups: at Colorado and at Arizona. But in terms of postponed games at this juncture, the Lightning are in better shape than many other NHL teams. They've already played those aforementioned 38 games - the most in the league. The NHL will be utilizing the Olympic Break window from the original schedule matrix to reschedule many of the postponed games. It'll be interesting to see how the NHL manages to rework the calendar and how condensed the schedule will become for various teams.
Coming Up: The Lightning are about to see a lot of the West. Beginning with Thursday's home game against Vancouver, the Lightning head into the All-Star Break by playing seven of their next eight games against Western Conference teams. The one exception is a 1-27 home game against New Jersey. If the Lightning play their makeup games against the Avs and Coyotes during the Olympic window, that's two more versus the West (along with potentially another game against the Devils). As the schedule currently reads, the Lightning will face Edmonton at home on February 23rd before playing the Stadium Series game in Nashville on February 26. Depending on how the revamped schedule looks - and if no other games need to get moved back - that could be 11 upcoming games for the Lightning against the West. On the other hand, the Lightning have done plenty of heavy lifting within the Atlantic Division already. They've completed 15 games versus Atlantic opponents so far and only have 11 remaining divisional contests left on the schedule.