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NHL Playoff Race: Lightning take care of business by working OT for Victor-y

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The Lightning pull a-Hed, man with an improbable OT win on a back-to-back against the Senators, while the Maple Leafs get crushed by the Panthers.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-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

I’ll be perfectly honest here... I did not have high hopes for the Lightning going into Ottawa. It was the back side of a back-to-back after playing the New York Rangers on Monday. Against the Rangers, the Lightning looked bad but still managed to pull off a victory on the strength of two Brayden Point goals.

The Lightning were on a three-game winning streak, but the Senators were on a six-game winning streak. Yet somehow, Bolts dominated large stretches of the game, especially in the third period. Mike Condon stood on his head for the Senators, otherwise, it could have easily been a 4-1 win for the Lightning in regulation. The game went to overtime and Victor Hedman took care of business with a goal to get the Victor-y.

Meanwhile, the Panthers put a beating on the Maple Leafs in Sunrise with a 7-2 bruising that produced an excellent reaction video from Steve Dangle. The Hurricanes couldn’t shut down the New York Islanders for a second night in a row. The Kings lost to the lowly Arizona Coyotes to put themselves further out of a playoff spot.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning 2 @ Ottawa Senators 1 Overtime - Best Case
  • New York Islanders 3 @ Carolina Hurricanes 2 Overtime - Worst Case
  • Toronto Maple Leafs 2 @ Florida Panthers 7 - Best Case
  • Arizona Coyotes 3 @ Los Angeles Kings 2 Shootout - OK Case

After last night’s games, the Lightning sit tied in points with the Islanders for the second wild card spot. The Islanders however own the tiebreaker (32 regulation/overtime wins vs. Bolts’ 30 ROW), and so technically hold the spot for now. The Maple Leafs sit a point behind the Lightning with a game in hand. This makes the Thursday game all the more important for the Lightning to win in regulation. That would put the Lightning up by three points while the Maple Leafs retain a game in hand.

Tonight’s Games that Matter

Wednesdays are often quiet nights on the NHL schedule. NBCSN likes to feature “Wednesday Night Rivalries” that aren’t always exactly what you’d call rivalries. That means fewer other NHL games to take away eyeballs from the national game. Even with just four games tonight, the Lightning still care about two games on the slate. One of those two teams is close to being left off the “teams to care about” list.

Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers

Best Case: Penguins win in regulation

OK Case: Penguins win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Flyers win in any fashion

This game lives up to the Wednesday Night Rivalry name given to it by NBCSN. One of the fiercest rivalries in hockey, these are always entertaining games. The Penguins have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the hardest division in the NHL. The Flyers have fallen off and sit seven points back of the wild card spot. If they lose tonight, we’ll no longer watch them on the scoreboard.

Boston Bruins @ Calgary Flames

Best Case: Calgary wins in regulation

OK Case: Calgary wins in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Bruins win in any fashion

The Bruins have been playing great hockey since their coaching change. They’re 7-3-0 in their last ten games and are on a three-game winning streak. The Flames are on a ten-game winning streak and have been Flaming hot themselves. It should be an entertaining game, though with a 9 PM start, I likely won’t be staying up to watch it.

The Bruins sit third in the Atlantic, three points ahead of the Lightning. They are still in reach, though the Senators likely are not. Getting third in the Atlantic is a good goal to aim for at this point so that the Lightning don’t cross over to the Metropolitan. Right now, third place in the Atlantic would face Ottawa, and take the winner of Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers in the second round. The second wild card would mean playing the Washington Capitals in the first round, followed by the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets. Not an easy path to the Eastern Conference Finals.