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NHL Playoff Race: No help for the Lightning, and a HUGE game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs

The Flyers and Bruins both won, but that’s ok. Tonight’s match-up against the Maple Leafs is much more important.

NHL: NHL All Star Game-Skills Competition Gary A. Vasquez-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

Neither the Penguins nor the Flames were able to help the Lightning last night. With their victory, the Flyers remain on the watch list for just a little bit longer. The Bruins put together a very convincing win over the Flames whom were on a ten game winning streak. The Bruins and their third place in the Atlantic continues to be the target for the playoffs to avoid the Metropolitan division. They are playing very good hockey right now and are a scary team to face.

  • Pittsburgh Penguins 0 @ Philadelphia Flyers 4 - Worst Case
  • Boston Bruins 5 @ Calgary Flames 2 - Worst Case

Tonight’s Games That Matter

First and foremost, the Lightning take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. This one’s an important one. With a win, the Lightning can put themselves three points ahead of the Leafs. The Leafs will still have a game in hand, but even if they win that extra game, they’d still be a point behind the Lightning. Folks, don’t miss the opportunity. It’s gonna be HUGE!

Beyond the Lightning, there’s five other games that we’ll be watching tonight, though none are quite as impactful as the game against the Maple Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Case: Lightning win in regulation

OK Case: Lightning win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

There are two things potentially at stake here. The first is that the Lightning are currently tied in points with the Islanders for the second wild card spot. The Islanders also play tonight and with a Lightning win and Islanders loss, the Lightning can take sole possession of the wild card. On the other side of it, the Maple Leafs are a point behind the Lightning. A win can create a separation in the standings with the young Leafs.

The Lightning are 1-0-1 against the Leafs this year and haven’t faced them since December 29th. After this game, the Lightning will face the Leafs one more time.

Philadelphia Flyers @ New Jersey Devils

Best Case: Devils win in regulation

OK Case: Devils win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Flyers win in any fashion

The Flyers played last night against the Penguins and will now take on a very bad Devils team. As much as I dislike Rat Face, the below tweet is pretty telling of how the month of March is treating the Devils and makes me not expect much help from them.

The good news is the Flyers are still five points back of the Lightning in the standings. Keep winning and the Lightning will stay ahead of them.

Winnipeg Jets @ New York Islanders

Best Case: Jets win in regulation

OK Case: Jets win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion

The Jets can be a big help to the Lightning tonight. A Lightning win combined with any kind of Jets win would put the Lightning up either one or two points on the Islanders depending on if the Islanders make it to overtime. The Islanders have been a bit up and down but have been good at home for most of the season. The Jets have done decently well on the road this year.

Florida Panthers @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Best Case: Blue Jackets win in regulation

OK Case: Blue Jackets win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Panthers win in any fashion

The Panthers, like the Flyers, are hovering down in that bottom edge of “can’t catch up.” The number of games remaining is dwindling fast. Sitting six points back of the Wild Card with only 14 games to play is not a great place to be. The Blue Jackets have been one of the big surprises of the NHL season and have been really good at home with a 25-9-1 record.

Boston Bruins @ Edmonton Oilers

Best Case: Oilers win in regulation

OK Case: Oilers win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Bruins win in any fashion

The Lightning are five points back of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic but also have a game in hand on Boston. The Bruins are finishing up the last game of a three game western Canada road trip. So far, they’ve proved to be up to the challenge of the trip beating Vancouver and Calgary. The Oilers will give them another challenge tonight on the back side of a back-to-back. The game will also feature two of the three players tied for the NHL points lead in Connor McDavid and Rat Face... I mean... Elite Rat Face... I mean... Brad Marchand...

Buffalo Sabres @ Los Angeles Kings

Best Case: Kings win in any fashion

OK Case: Kings lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Kings lose in regulation

The Kings have slipped away from the Wild Card these past two games. They had an opportunity to make up some ground with games against the St. Louis Blues, whom they are chasing for the second wild card, and the Arizona Coyotes. They salvaged a point out of the two games, but that’s not enough and has them four points out of a playoff spot right now. The Kings need to turn it around here quick so that the Lightning will get something more out of the conditional pick from the Ben Bishop trade.