The Lightning is not going to make the playoffs, and, in the long run, that's a good thing.

No one, of course, over at the Tampa Bay Times Forum is going to admit that. They aren't going to admit that the playoffs are out of reach, and they certainly aren't going to admit that it's a good thing.

The way the Lightning sees it, as long as the NHL hasn't crossed a line through its name in the standings, it's alive. And as long as it's alive, the only thing it will discuss is how to stay alive.

But let's face facts here. Despite Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Ottawa at the Times Forum, it's all just too much for the Lightning. Too far behind. Too many teams in the way. Too little time left. This season will end when the regular season does.

And, honestly, that's okay at this point.

That's a hard concept to swallow. But it gets easier if you dismiss the silly notion of, "Hey, if you make the playoffs, anything can happen." Sometimes that's true. But not this time. Not this team. Not this season. The Lightning simply isn't good enough to make you think that "anything can happen."

And, really, going on some sort of miraculous run to sneak into the playoffs might be, in the grand scheme of things, the worst thing that could happen to this franchise. It would suggest that this entire season was all about coaching and goaltending, that it only took a new coach and a new goalie to fix all of this team's troubles.

And that would be a foolish theory to believe, the type of thinking that keeps you stuck in neutral.

While there's some question that coaching was an issue and absolutely no question that the goaltending was a mess, those are far from the only issues the Lightning has had this season.

The point: Even if new coach Jon Cooper and new goalie Ben Bishop had been here since the start of the season, this team would not be good enough to take out good teams such as the Penguins, Canadiens, Bruins or, the way they're playing lately, the Caps in a seven-game series.

Now that doesn't mean the final nine games of the season are meaningless. Quite the opposite. Now is the time to figure out what you have, what you don't and how to make it all better for next season. Here are some of things the Lightning can do in the final nine games: