The 2015-16 NHL season comes to a close this weekend. The second season, the NHL playoffs, will get underway shortly. That benchmark, making the playoffs, is worth noting for a couple of noteworthy feats:
- The Tampa Bay Lightning, by clinching a playoff berth in general, have made the NHL ----playoffs for the 9th time in the club's 23 year history. That puts the Bolts (in their 23rd season of existence) one playoff berth short of the total number of playoff appearance by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their 40 year history.
- This is the 20th anniversary season of the Lightning making the NHL playoffs for the first time ever. The Bolts faced the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Tampa Bay was bounced in 6 games (and set playoff-game attendance records; the Bolts home games were played in Thunderdome - the building now known as Tropicana Field).
- This will be the second time ever the Lightning and the Florida Panthers will make the playoffs in the same year. 1996 was the first time either team made the playoffs. The Panthers went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals that season. The Panthers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
- It's worth nothing the Panthers have only made the playoffs (including this season) 5 times in team history.
- It's worth noting in elaboration that this is technically the first time the Lightning has made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. Actually, it's the first time the club has made the playoffs in three consecutive years. The Lightning, starting made the playoffs in consecutive seasons from 2003 until 2007 with slight interruption by the NHL lockout of 2004-05 which cancelled the season. So the team record for consecutive seasons stands at four seasons.
It's still in question who the Lightning will face to start the post-season. The Boston Bruins are now tied in points with the Detroit Red Wings (93). With one game remaining for each club, it's possible for either team to finish the year as the #3 seed in the Atlantic Division... or be bounced from the playoffs in total. Boston finishes their season tomorrow afternoon against the Ottawa Senators while the Red Wings complete their season against the New York Rangers tomorrow as well.