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NHL playoff race: Bolts beat Rangers, hold steady in standings

Tampa Bay Lightning playoff hopes for March 14th, 2017

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-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 Games

The Lightning took care of business in New York taking out the Rangers 3-2 to move to a point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card spot — despite a shoddy effort and performance on the ice. Peter Budaj was tremendous and kept the Lightning in that game to give them a chance to win it. The Blue Jackets dispatched the Flyers to put them a little further from the playoffs, and they now sit 5 points behind the Lightning. The Hurricanes destroyed the Islanders, mostly because the Islanders have just came off of a hellish nine game road trip. Out on the west coast, the Bruins crushed the Canucks on the back of a Brad Marchand hat trick, and Jonathan Quick failed to keep the Blues in check.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning 3 @ New York Rangers 2 - Best Case
  • Columbus Blue Jackets 5 @ Philadelphia Flyers 3 - Best Case
  • Carolina Hurricanes 8 @ New York Islanders 4 - Best Case
  • Boston Bruins 6 @ Vancouver Canucks 3 - Worst Case
  • St. Louis Blues 3 @ Los Angeles Kings 1 - Worst Case

Overall, the Lightning fared very well in their playoff hopes.

Tonight’s Games that Matter

Tonight, the Lightning head to Ottawa to take on the Senators on a back-to-back. Looking a little bit ahead, the Lightning will be back home on Thursday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning have two games left against Toronto and the outcome of those two games could very well decide who gets into the playoffs.

Other than the Lightning, there are three other games that we care about. We are getting closer to the point where we are going to stop caring about the Panthers and the Flyer. They sit 6 and 5 points behind the Lightning respectively, though the Panthers have a game in hand.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators

Best Case: Lightning win in any fashion

OK Case: Lightning lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

The Senators have been streaking recently. They are 8-2-0 in their last ten games, including six wins in a row, and have been challenging Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. They sit just two points behind the Canadiens with two games in hand. The Lightning are 2-1-0 against the Senators and have scored 11 goals total in the three games while allowing seven. Five of those goals allowed all came in one game.

New York Islanders @ Carolina Hurricanes

Best Case: Hurricanes win in regulation

OK Case: Hurricanes win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion

In an odd scheduling twist, the Islanders and Hurricanes will play each other for a second day in a row, but this time in Carolina. Weird. The Canes took advantage of a tired and worn out Islanders that had just finished a 9 game road trip. Now they get the Islanders again with both teams having to travel. The Islanders are 0-2-1 now against the Hurricanes and have allowed an astonishing 20 goals in three games. Safe to say the Hurricanes seem to have the Islanders’ number this season. The Canes have allowed four goals in each game to the Islanders though, and they’ll need to be careful.

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Florida Panthers

Best Case: Panthers win in regulation

OK Case: Panthers win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

With the Panthers behind the Lightning by six points, we’re not too worried about them getting a point. We do care about Toronto getting points and need the Panthers to win it in regulation. Toronto has a game in hand and will keep the extra game in hand for a little while. With a Panthers and Lightning win tonight, and Toronto losses tonight and Thursday, the Lightning could move a point ahead of the Maple Leafs for the 2nd wild card spot.

Arizona Coyotes @ Los Angeles Kings

Best Case: Kings win in any fashion

OK Case: Kings lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Kings lose in regulation

With the loss to the Blues last night, the Kings have slipped a little further away from the wild card spot. The Coyotes are a paradoxical team. They’re a mixture of young, future talent and aging veterans. They have former Lightning netminder Mike Smith as their starter, and he has the ability to stand on his head and stop 40-50 shots and only allow a goal. He managed a 1-0 shutout win last night against the Colorado Avalanche, but will he play against the Kings? With Quick playing last night, Ben Bishop should be in net against the Coyotes for the Kings.