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NHL Playoff Race: Big game for Lightning against the Bruins with everyone in action tonight

With all the competition playing, the Lightning need a win to at least maintain hope.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins Greg M. Cooper-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

Two of the three games last night were worthy of Lightning fans watching. The Maple Leafs went into Buffalo and picked up a win, which is not much of a surprise. They have taken back the second spot in the Atlantic Division. The Senators started a tough stretch of games where they alternate away and home games down the stretch with each of the three away games being in the United States. Detroit managed to come out with a shootout win to deny the Senators the 2nd point and both teams traveled to Ottawa last night after the game to play tonight. With their shootout loss, the Senators tied Boston for points, and due to the game in hand, have moved back into the third spot in the Atlantic for the moment.

  • Toronto Maple Leafs 4 @ Buffalo Sabres 2 - Worst Case
  • Ottawa Senators 4 @ Detroit Red Wings 5 OT/SO - OK Case

Tonight’s Games That Matter

The Lightning travel to Boston to take on the Bruins in an important matchup. The Lightning can still catch the Bruins, but it’s going to be a tough run to do so. The Hurricanes aren’t quite eliminated yet, but they are very close to it. If the Senators get a point or the Hurricanes miss out on a point, they will be eliminated, leaving just the Lightning and Islanders in the race.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Boston Bruins

Best Case: Lightning win in regulation

OK Case: Lightning lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

A regulation win would break the Bruins’ five game winning streak and get the Bolts a step closer to the playoffs. If the Bolts win tonight in regulation, the Lightning would have to get three more points over their last three games than Boston gets over their last two games. If Boston were to get all four points after losing, they would lock themselves into the playoffs since none of the trailing teams can get to 96 points or have a better ROW tiebreaker even if Boston won both games in the shootout.

Washington Capitals @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: Capitals win in regulation

OK Case: Capitals win in overtime or shootout

Not Quite Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in regulation or overtime

The Maple Leafs sit five points up on the Lightning with the same number of games played. They’ve also won four in a row and don’t show any signs of letting up. This year’s Maple Leafs remind me a lot of the Lightning in 2013-14 — a lot of young forward talent sprinkled with some veterans in front of a somewhat weak blue line and a decent goaltender. I’ll be surprised if these young Leafs make too much noise in the playoffs, but it will be a learning experience that can propel them into making a deep playoff run next season.

Detroit Red Wings @ Ottawa Senators

Best Case: Red Wings win in regulation

OK Case: Red Wings win in overtime or shootout

Not Quite Worst Case: Senators win in shootout

Worst Case: Senators win in regulation or overtime

After playing each over in Detroit last night, both teams traveled to Ottawa to face off again. The game went to a shootout which meant a long night for both teams. Erik Karlsson returned to action last night with a goal and an assist and played 30:11. His sore foot doesn’t look to be bothering him. The Sens are still without Cody Ceci though. We’ll see what the Red Wings can bring tonight against the Senators with both teams tired. It the Senators are to win, the shootout would be the best way, since the Lightning still need to catch them in the ROW tiebreaker column in case there is a tie.

New York Islanders @ Nashville Predators

Best Case: Predators win in regulation

OK Case: Predators win in overtime or shootout

Not Quite Worst Case: Islanders win in shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in regulation or overtime

The Predators were supposed to be our friends over the last week when they took on a number of Eastern Conference teams that the Lightning are battling in the playoff race. They beat the Islanders in New York, but proceeded to lose to Boston in Boston and at home against Toronto. With John Tavares out, the Islanders are going to have a hard time of it, and they are not far from falling out of the playoff race.

Carolina Hurricanes @ Minnesota Wild

Best Case: Wild win in any fashion

Not Quite Worst Case: Hurricanes win in shootout

Worst Case: Hurricanes win in overtime or shootout

The Hurricanes are a hair away from being eliminated and that’s why there is no OK Case here. If they miss out on a point or if Ottawa gets a point in tonight’s game, the Hurricanes will be eliminated. They don’t have an easy task taking on one of the better Western Conference teams on the road in Minnesota. Props to the Hurricanes for putting on a show for their fans down the stretch. They’ve played solid hockey and it bodes well for their success next season... if they can find some answers in net.