With the Lightning clawing their way back into the playoff picture since the trade deadline, and with the end of the season within sight, it’s time to start scoreboard watching.
For the Lightning to make it to the Wild Card spot, or possibly even third in the Atlantic division, they’ll need some help along the way. Not only do they need to win their games, they need to win more games than three or four other teams that are also fighting for playoff spots. With this feature, we’ll review how other teams helped (or hurt) the Lightning, and who you should be cheering for. We’ll continue this either until the Lightning secure a playoff spot... or are eliminated.
For every game we review, we’ll determine a Best Case, OK Case, and Worst Case scenario for each game. For each review, we’ll determine which actually happened for the Lightning. With thanks to @ElSeldo of Pension Plan Puppets for the inspiration.
Last Night’s Games
The Tampa Bay Lightning did their part by beating the Minnesota Wild. However, no one else helped them in the race, very much. One silver lining that I overlooked yesterday about the Philadelphia and Toronto match up is that the Lightning have two games remaining against Toronto and none against Philadelphia.
The Lightning can control their destiny more with Toronto by beating them in both games. So while I listed Philly losing in regulation as the OK case, the reality is it probably was the best outcome.
On the other side of the country, the Kings did their job by beating the Predators, putting them one step closer to making the playoffs and giving the Lightning a draft pick.
The Lightning did well last night to take two points from the best team in the Western Conference. The Minnesota Wild have had a very strong year, but have also struggled recently. The Lightning took advantage with two early goals in the first period from Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. But the team’s playoff hopes may have taken a bigger hit from the injuries sustained by Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Johnson, and Cedric Paquette. That’s three centers that went down, after the Lightning traded away two other centers in Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula. Even if just one of the three injuries ends up being short-term, that will be a blessing for the Lightning.
- Minnesota Wild 1 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 4 - Best Case; Technically
- New York Rangers 3 @ Carolina Hurricanes 4 - Worst Case, but matter little
- Philadelphia Flyers 2 @ Toronto Maple Leafs 4 - OK Case
- New York Islanders 4 @ Vancouver Canucks 3 - Worst Case
- Nashville Predators 2 @ Los Angeles Kings 3 - Best Case
Tonight’s Games That Matter
The Lightning now sit five points back of the Boston Bruins for third in the Atlantic and have a game in hand. In the Wild Card, they are four points back of the Islanders and three points back of the Maple Leafs with the same number of games. The Lightning have moved ahead of the Flyers by one point and sit two points ahead of the Panthers. Florida has a game in hand on the Lightning and will play the Minnesota Wild tonight which could let them pull back even. At this point, there’s really only six teams the Lightning have to watch, plus the Kings.
Minnesota Wild @ Florida Panthers
Best Case: Wild win in regulation
OK Case: Wild win in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Panthers win in any fashion
The Panthers can pull even with the Lightning if they win or within a point if they go to overtime and lose. Hopefully having gotten pummeled by the Lightning last night, the Wild will go in with renewed energy on the back-to-back and beat up on the Panthers. The Lightning will get the Panthers at home on Saturday. That will be a huge game to put some separation between them and the Panthers.