During their night off, the Tampa Bay Lightning sat on their couches and watched the Montreal Canadiens lose 8-2 to the Anaheim Ducks, a result that clinched a playoff berth for the team 15 points clear of the next closest team in the league.
Even if the Bolts decided to ice their ECHL team (though, I hear the goalie is pretty good) and lose every single night from now until the last day of the season, the team would still sit one point ahead of the Canadiens for the final divisional playoff spot in the Atlantic. That’s right. They wouldn’t even need the Wild Card.
On Thursday night, all the Lightning needed was a win over the Minnesota Wild and they would be confirmed in. The win in game 68 would’ve been the second quickest in the salary cap era, behind only the 2009-10 Washington Capitals, who did it in 67 games. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen then, but technically the Lightning still did the deed in 68 games (plus some help), so second place on that record board belongs to the boys in blue and white. Not bad.
If they clinch tonight, the @TBLightning (68 GP) would tie for the second-fewest games needed to clinch a playoff spot since 2005-06. In terms of calendar date, Tampa Bay would become the fastest to clinch over that same span. #NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/KqStd8lt37— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 7, 2019
The next most important race will be whether the Lightning can catch leading scorer Nikita Kucherov in points. The Bolts have 106 while the Russian superstar has 108. It’ll be a daring fight to the finish, both sides look very strong, time will tell who will come out on top in the end.