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Tampa Bay Lightning playoff hopes for March 11th, 2017

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Lightning fans have plenty of games to cheer about tonight.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

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 Game

The only game on the slate that mattered last night was the Minnesota Wild going down to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers. After losing to the Lightning Thursday night, the Wild took out their anger on the Panthers and gave the Lightning a hand in the playoff race.

  • Minnesota Wild 7 @ Florida Panthers 4 - Best Case

Tonight’s Games that Matter

The Lightning again control their destiny tonight against a team that’s behind them. They now sit two points up on the Florida Panthers and have an opportunity to put themselves four points up on the Panthers. There’s also four other games that will matter for the Lightning to gain ground in the playoff race if they can get some help and beat the Panthers.

Florida Panthers @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Case: Lightning win in regulation

OK Case: Lightning go to overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

If the Lightning go to overtime, they’ll remain at least a point ahead of the Panthers. A win is better, though, to give them the best chance to make up ground on the other teams that are playing tonight.

Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins

Best Case: Flyers win in regulation

OK Case: Bruins win in regulation

Worst Case: They go to overtime or shootout

The Flyers are currently behind the Lightning with the same number of games played. If the Lightning take care of business, they can remain ahead of them after tonight’s games. The Bruins sit 5 points ahead of the Lightning, but have also played an extra game and the Lightning will still have a game in hand on the Bruins since both are playing tonight. If the Flyers can’t win in regulation, then we’d prefer the Bruins to win in regulation instead of both teams getting a point.

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Carolina Hurricanes

Best Case: Hurricanes win in regulation

OK Case: Hurricanes win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

The Hurricanes are out of the race and the Lightning are still chasing the Maple Leafs. This is an easy one to cheer for the Hurricanes. With a Lightning win and a Maple Leafs regulation loss, the Lightning would draw to within a point of the Leafs. The Lightning also have two games remaining against the Leafs and can make up more ground in those games.

New York Islanders @ St. Louis Blues

Best Case: Blues win in regulation

OK Case: Blues win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion

The Islanders continue to hold on to the second wild card spot in the East and hold a four point lead of the Lightning with the same number of games played. The Lightning don’t have any games remaining against the Islanders meaning we’re relying on other teams to beat the Islanders.

Washington Capitals @ Los Angeles Kings

Best Case: Kings win in any fashion

OK Case: Kings lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Capitals win in regulation

Lightning fans should continue to cheer for the Los Angeles Kings to get into the playoffs. The further they go and the more Ben Bishop plays, the better the Lightning’s conditional draft pick gets from that trade. The Kings sit only three points out of the second wild card spot in the West.