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Tampa Bay Lightning playoff hopes for March 9th, 2017

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Tonight is gonna be Wild.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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 got zero help last night. The Ottawa Senators game only mattered slightly, but at this point, it’s almost not worth watching the Senators any more. They are now 11 points up on the Lightning in 2nd place in the Atlantic, and have the same number of games played. So Ottawa will now move into the “Doesn’t Matter” category for the Lightning.

The Bruins now sit 7 points up on the Lightning, however, the Lightning have played two fewer games. The Bruins are still catchable, and if the Islanders come up with more points than the Bruins, the Lightning may have to catch the Bruins for third in the Atlantic to get into the playoffs.

On a side note, third in the Atlantic should probably be the goal for making the playoffs. Otherwise, the likely first round opponent for the Lightning would be the Washington Capitals, followed by one of Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, or the New York Rangers.

  • Ottawa Senators 5 @ Dallas Stars 2 - Worst Case
  • Detroit Red Wings 1 @ Boston Bruins 6 - Worst Case
  • Pittsburgh Penguins 7 @ Winnipeg Jets 4 - Didn’t Matter

Following yesterday’s games, here are the eastern conference playoff probabilities via Micah Blake McCurdy at hockeyviz.com.

Tonight’s Games That Matter

Minnesota Wild @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Case: Lightning win in any fashion

OK Case: Lightning lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

This is the most important game. It’s hard to move up the standings if you don’t win games. The Wild are a formidable opponent and have been one of the best road teams in the league. They have the most points in the Western Conference and sport a 19-7-5 away record. By contrast, the Lightning have a 17-11-3 record at home. This will be a good opportunity for the Lightning to pick up two points, and it won’t matter if they give up a point to the Wild if they can’t do it in regulation.

New York Rangers @ Carolina Hurricanes

Best Case: Rangers win in regulation

OK Case: Rangers win in any fashion

Worst Case: Carolina wins in any fashion

This is one that probably doesn’t matter. The Rangers are 9 points ahead of the Lightning. The Hurricanes sit 7 points behind the Lightning, but they have two games in hand. But in all honesty, the likelihood of the Lightning catching the Rangers or the Hurricanes catching the Lightning are pretty slim and this isn’t likely to impact the playoffs for the Lightning.

Philadelphia Flyers @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: Flyers win in Regulation

OK Case: Maple Leafs win in Regulation

Worst Case: Either team wins in overtime or shootout

The Lightning are chasing both of these teams. Either way, one team is gaining ground on the Lightning. However, the Lightning are only 1 point behind the Flyers and 3 points behind the Maple Leafs. So the Flyers winning would be marginally better than Toronto. However, if these teams don’t finish in regulation and both gain a point, that’s bad all the way around for the Lightning’s chances.

New York Islanders @ Vancouver Canucks

Best Case: Canucks win in regulation.

OK Case: Canucks win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion.

The Canucks aren’t good. So I’m not holding out much hope that they’ll beat the Islanders. But you never can tell when east coast teams go out to the west coast on a long road trip. That could work out in the Lightning’s favor if the Canucks can pull it off, especially in regulation.

Nashville Predators @ Los Angeles Kings

Best Case: Kings win in any fashion

OK Case: Nashville wins in overtime or shootout.

Worst Case: Nashville wins in regulation

You may be asking why we’re watching a game with two western conference teams. The answer to that is simple and complicated at the same time. The Los Angeles Kings agreed to give the Lightning a conditional draft pick in the Ben Bishop trade. Apparently you need a math degree to figure out all of the conditions, but one thing we know is that if the Kings don’t make the playoffs, the Lightning receive nothing. So we need to cheer for the Kings to at least make the playoffs and then go deep in the western conference side of the bracket to improve the Lightning’s draft pick.

Tonight’s Games that Don’t Matter

There are a total of 10 games on the slate, including the Lightning and the Wild. The rest of the games will have little impact on the Lightning’s playoff chances as it’s either Western conference teams playing each other, teams that are firmly ahead of the Lightning, or firmly behind the Lightning.

  • Anaheim Ducks @ Chicago Blackhawks
  • New Jersey Devils @ Colorado Avalanche
  • Montreal Canadiens @ Calgary Flames
  • Ottawa Senators @ Arizona Coyotes
  • Washington Capitals @ San Jose Sharks