Remember that 7-game win streak? That was fun. It was also a bit of a fluke, as the Tampa Bay Lightning have now lost three of their last four games. Granted, one of those losses was in overtime, but still -- the Bolts needed to show that they were a playoff-caliber team against the Rangers and Penguins, and like they have all season long, they fell short.
So now that almost all realistic hope of the Lightning making the playoffs has evaporated, the question remains: what are the Bolts playing for over the remainder of this season? For one thing, dignity. After nearly making it to the Stanley Cup last season, the Lightning surely want to do as well as possible this season. Nobody enjoys losing.
As for the fans, why should we be watching? If the Bolts aren't going to make the playoffs, why should we care? Well, because this team is still incredibly fun to watch. Because the core for this team is going to be around many years, and is good enough to carry the team to another playoff berth. Because the only thing stopping this team from having a good night is their goaltending (well, and power play / penalty kill). Because Steven Stamkos is making a run at the NHL points crown. And because the Bolts have a chance to play the role of spoiler this season, being a dangerous team to face down the stretch.
The Lightning face the Ottawa Senators tonight at 7:00pm EST, who are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 62 points. They have played two more games than the two teams below them in the standings, though, so they are riding on the edge of the bubble. Every win is precious for them right now, and the Bolts promise to be a challenge.
Don't give up on the season, Bolts fans. Despite being out of the race, there are plenty of reasons left to tune in and watch.
For more on the Bolts, check out SB Nation's blog on the Lightning, Raw Charge.