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NHL Playoff Race: Leafs and Islanders increase their lead

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Lightning lose even more ground in the playoff race.

NHL: Boston Bruins 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

There were two important games for the Lightning to keep an eye on last night. Neither one of them went the Lightning’s way. The Maple Leafs with their win have moved into third in the Atlantic overtaking the Boston Bruins and they still have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders took down the New York Rangers and pulled to within two points of the Bruins with a game in hand. The good news for the Lightning now sit five points back to the Bruins with a game in hand and three points behind the Islanders with the same number of games played.

  • Toronto Maple Leafs 5 @ Columbus Blue Jackets 2 - Worst Case
  • New York Islanders 3 @ New York Rangers 2 - Worst Case

Tonight’s Games that Matter

We’re at the point with only ten games left of really only worrying about the teams ahead of the Lightning. If a team behind them overtakes them in the standings, we’ll start to worry about those teams as well. But for now, we can’t worry too much about those teams as they’ll have just as hard of a climb into the playoffs as the Lightning. If any of those teams move ahead of the Lightning, it either means the Lightning are losing too many games or those teams are winning every game to the end of the season.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Boston Bruins

Best Case: Lightning win in regulation

OK Case: Lightning win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in any fashion

The Lightning can’t give up any points to the teams in front of them when they play. To make up ground, the Lightning must win and must win in regulation. If the Lightning lose, it will make it all the harder to make it into the playoffs. The Lightning are already in a position of needing to be two or three wins better than two of the Maple Leafs, Bruins, and Islanders to make it into the playoffs. They need a really hot streak to end the season and it starts with this game against the Bruins.

New Jersey Devils @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: Devils win in regulation

OK Case: Devils in in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

The Maple Leafs are steadily pulling away from the Lightning and have surpassed the Bruins. The target is a little bit less on the Leafs now and the focus of the Lightning, and it’s fans, have to shift to the Bruins and Islanders. Even still, we should be hoping for them to go cold and lose more games than they win over their final ten games.