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NHL Playoff Race: Lightning do their part to keep up with everyone else

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A chippy 5-3 win against the Red Wings keep the Lightning on pace.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders Anthony Gruppuso-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 their business even without Nikita Kucherov in the lineup. Some early fights set the tone for a chippy game between two bitter rivals. I think this is a rivalry that is still not recognized for what it is by a lot of fans outside of Tampa and Detroit. Two hard-fought playoff series, two years in a row, has made it so there is almost always something that happens every game between these two teams.

On the rest of the scoreboard, the Lightning didn’t get much help with just one game falling their way. It’s going to be a hard fight the rest of the way and hopefully the Lightning will be up for the challenge. With Kucherov only out with illness and the faint rumor that Steven Stamkos could return as soon as this weekend (he’s listed as day-to-day by the team), the Lightning stand poised to make that run to the playoffs.

  • Detroit Red Wings 3 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 5 - Best Case
  • New York Islanders 3 @ Philadelphia Flyers 6 - Best Case
  • Columbus Blue Jackets 1 @ Carolina Hurricanes 2 OT - Worst Case
  • Dallas Stars 0 @ Boston Bruins 2 - Worst Case
  • Toronto Maple Leafs 3 @ Nashville Predators 1 - Worst Case

Tonight’s Games that Matter

With Friday’s normally sporting a smaller schedule in the NHL, there’s only one game to watch tonight. If you want to go out and have fun instead, I don’t blame you. I’ll be doing the same. Saturday will feature a bigger slate of games that matter, because the Lightning are back in action along with the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Hurricanes.

New Jersey Devils @ New York Islanders

Best Case: Devils win in regulation

OK Case: Devils win in overtime or shootout

Not as OK Case: Islanders win in shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in regulation or overtime

The Islanders sit six points back of the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot with only five games to play. They aren’t quite eliminated, but they’re getting really close to it. The Devils have nothing to play for as they are already eliminated. They also don’t have a lot to play with because their roster is still in the middle of a rebuild effort.