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NHL Playoff Race: Lightning take another big step towards elimination

The losses to Toronto and Washington could be foreseen, but losing to Arizona was not what the Lightning needed.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-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 another big step towards being eliminated from the playoffs. The Coyotes have been playing good hockey lately, but it was a team that the Lightning needed to beat. They were in a spot where if the Toronto Maple Leafs were to go even 7-4-0 over their final 11 games, the Lightning would need to go 9-1-1 to get in front of them.

It’s possible that Toronto doesn’t play that well and are 5-3-2 over their last ten games. If Toronto continues that pace and goes 5-3-2 over their last ten, that’s still the same as 6-4-0, and they only have to pick up a win in that extra game to put the Lightning in a bad spot.

That’s not to mention the Islanders, who only have to pace the Lightning in their last 11 games to stay a point ahead of the Lightning. Frankly, it’s looking worse and worse for the Lightning as they still sit four points behind the Maple Leafs and realistically need to make up five points since the Leafs hold the ROW (Regulation and Overtime Wins) tiebreaker.

  • Ottawa Senators 3 @ Boston Bruins 2 - Best Case
  • Arizona Coyotes 5 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 3 - Worst Case
  • Carolina Hurricanes 4 @ Florida Panthers 3 - OK Case
  • Philadelphia Flyers 2 @ Winnipeg Jets 2 - Best Case

Tonight’s Games that Matter

Out of three games, we have two games to care about, because two of the teams in front of the Lightning take on some very tough opponents. If the Lightning are to have any chance, not only do they need to get their game straightened out and go on a ridiculously hot winning streak, they need these two opponents to do as poorly as possible, which is a lot to expect.

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Best Case: Blue Jackets win in regulation

OK Case: Blue Jackets win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

The Lightning can’t afford to have the Leafs winning against teams that they shouldn’t win against like Columbus. The Leafs have a tougher remaining schedule than the Lightning, though that won’t mean much if the Lightning can’t win games against teams they’re supposed to beat or sneak a couple of wins against teams they’re not supposed to beat. If Toronto does win the game, the best case is for them to win it in the shootout so the Lightning have a chance of catching them in the ROW tiebreaker allowing a tie in points to go in the Lightning’s favor.

New York Islanders @ New York Rangers

Best Case: Rangers win in regulation

OK Case: Rangers win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion

Just pretend you read the paragraph about the Maple Leafs above, but replace Leafs with Isles and Columbus with Rangers.