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 really had to have two points against Montreal last night. The Bruins had already gotten two points from the Florida Panthers earlier in the afternoon to make the Lightning’s task harder. The Lightning managed to pull a point out of the game, but it’s not enough. At this point, the Lightning need every single point. The consolation point isn’t going to get it done to get the Lightning into the playoffs.
In other news, the Hurricanes finally dropped a game with their first regulation loss in... well, a lot of games. The Flyers stave off elimination with a win, but that won’t last long. We’ll continue to follow along with the other teams in the Eastern Conference that haven’t been eliminated for entertainment purposes even though they are even less likely to make it into the playoffs. The Senators have also gone on a skid and have dropped into a tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Sens have also had some injury issues and are missing Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci was injured last night. That means we should probably start keeping an eye on them if they continue to collapse.
- Montreal Canadiens 2 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 1 OT - OK Case
- Florida Panthers 2 @ Boston Bruins 5 - Worst Case
- Toronto Maple Leafs 5 @ Detroit Red Wings 4 - Worst Case
- Dallas Stars 3 @ Carolina Hurricanes 0 - Best Case
- New Jersey Devils 0 @ Philadelphia Flyers 3 - Worst Case
Tonight’s Games that Matter
Now, to guarantee getting ahead of the Bruins, the Lightning will need to go 5-0-0 and the Bruins can’t get more than five points over their last four games. The one thing that could save the Lightning is the Bruins’ tough schedule. They play away against the Chicago Blackhawks today and then have home games against the Lightning, Ottawa Senators, and Washington Capitals.
On the other hand, if the Senators continue their collapse and can’t find another point, the Lightning would only need to go 3-1-1 or better to pass the Senators. The likelihood of that happening still seems low. But it’s at least gotten into the realm of possibility as they’ve now lost two in a row and have gone 2-5-3 over their last ten games.
Dallas Stars @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Best Case: Lightning win in any fashion
OK Case: Lightning lose in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation
Both teams are on the second game of a back-to-back. The Lightning have the advantage in that they have not had to travel. Dallas’ defense and goaltending are suspect, but this is a team with a TON of offensive skill. The game against Montreal was a very tight, close checking game more reminiscent of playing a Western Conference team. Dallas more closely resembles an Eastern Conference team with their more open, back and forth style. The Lightning need to take advantage and get the two points any which way they can.
Boston Bruins @ Chicago Blackhawks
Best Case: Blackhawks win in regulation
OK Case: Blackhawks win in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Bruins win in any fashion
Less than 24 hours after finishing their game against the Florida Panthers in Boston, the Bruins have had to travel to Chicago to take on the best team in the Western Conference. Hopefully that will be a recipe for a Bruins loss giving the Lightning a little light in their chase of the Bruins.
New York Islanders @ Buffalo Sabres
Best Case: Sabres win in regulation
OK Case: Sabres win in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion
Carolina Hurricanes @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Best Case: Penguins win in regulation
OK Case: Penguins win in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Carolina wins in any fashion
Philadelphia Flyers @ New York Rangers
Best Case: Rangers win in regulation
OK Case: Rangers win in overtime or shootout
Worst Case: Flyers win in any fashion
The Islanders and Hurricanes sit only two points back of the Lightning with five games remaining. The Flyers also are two points back of the Lightning, but only have four games remaining. The path to the playoffs for these three teams is even tougher, but they’re not eliminated yet.