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The Lightning’s path to number one seed

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With a win over the Capitals, they’ve put themselves in the drivers seat.

NHL: Eastern Conference Qualifications-Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened up the round robin games with a 3-2 shootout win over the Washington Capitals. With that win, they’ve put themselves in the driver’s seat after the Boston Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in regulation. The purpose of this round robin between the top four teams in each conference is to determine the seeding order for the next round.

If there are any ties in points at the end of the round robin, the tie breaker is the regular season points percentage. Since the Lightning entered the round robin as the number two team in the Eastern Conference, they hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Capitals and Flyers while the Bruins maintain the edge over the Bolts.

With the results of the first two games of the round robin in hand, we can now examine the different scenarios for the Lightning to take the first seed. The easiest path is to just win the next two games. Easy Peasy! Most of the paths forward though will leave the Lightning knowing their result after their game with the Flyers, but there area couple that will leave the Lightning waiting for the results of the last game between the Capitals and Bruins on Sunday.

Scenario Number 1:

The Lightning beat the Bruins in Regulation or Overtime

If the Lightning beat the Bruins, they’ll be in complete control as well as eliminating the Bruins from contention for first place. This will also give the Lightning the advantage in tie breakers.

The Lightning will take the first seed if any of the below happen:

  • If the Flyers beat Capitals in Regulation or Overtime and the Lightning beat the Flyers in Regulation or Overtime
  • If the Capitals beat the Flyers in Overtime AND the Lightning beat the Flyers in Regulation or Overtime

or

If the Capitals beat the Flyers in Overtime and the Lightning lose in Overtime

  • If Capitals beat Flyers in Regulation and the Lightning beat Flyers in Regulation or Overtime

or

If Capitals beat Flyers in Regulation and the Lightning lose in Overtime

  • Lightning lose in Regulation AND Capitals lose in Regulation or Overtime

Scenario Number 2:

If the Lightning lose to the Bruins in Regulation

If the Lightning can’t take even one point from the Bruins, the Lightning will be at the mercy of the other games played for if they can take the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and could be eliminated from contention after Thursday’s game between the Flyers and Capitals.

The Lightning would be eliminated from the top seed if:

  • The Capitals beat the Flyers in Regulation or Overtime

In this scenario, the Lightning would max out at four points with a win over the Flyers. If the Bruins beat the Capitals in regulation, they would also have four points and win the tie breaker and the first seed. If the Capitals win in regulation or lose in overtime, they would have more than four points and the first seed.

  • If Flyers beat Capitals in Regulation or Overtime AND the Lightning beat the Flyers in Regulation AND the Capitals win in Regulation or Overtime

For this scenario, the Flyers and Lightning would max out at four points. The Capitals would max out at four points if they lose in overtime and three points if they lose in regulation to the Flyers and beat the Bruins. However, if the Bruins win against the Capitals, they would also have four points and the tiebreaker over the Lightning. However, if the Lightning beat the Flyers in overtime, then the Flyers would have five points and would take the first seed no matter what happens with the Capitals and Bruins the next day.

Scenario Number 3:

If the Lightning lose to the Bruins in Overtime

Getting a point from the Bruins would keep the Lightning in the driver’s seat.

  • Lightning beat the Flyers in Regulation or Overtime

In this scenario, the best that the Bruins could finish with is four points, while the Lightning would finish with five points with a win over the Flyers. Likewise, the best that the Capitals could finish with is five points with a win over the Bruins on Sunday. The Lightning have the tiebreaker over the Capitals, so would take the first seed. This scenario holds true for no matter what the result of the Capitals and Flyers game is since if the Lightning win, the Flyers could finish with no better than five points for an Overtime loss against the Lightning if they beat the Capitals.

There is no scenario in which the Lightning could lose in overtime to the Flyers and take the first seed with only four points. If the Flyers beat the Capitals in any way, then they would have six points with a win over the Lightning. If the Capitals beat the Flyers in any fashion, then the Capitals would either have five points with a win over the Bruins, or the Bruins would have four points with a win and take the tie breaker.

The Funny Scenario

In going through everything, I did find a really funny scenario.

If the Bruins beat the Lightning and the Capitals in overtime, the Capitals beat the Flyers in regulation, and the Flyers beat the Lightning in overtime, then all four teams would end up with four points and it the seeding for all four would be determined by the regular season points percentage tiebreaker. So in this scenario the seeding would be as follows

  1. Boston Bruins, 2-1-0, 4 points, .714 RP%
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning, 1-0-2, 4 points, .657 RP%
  3. Washington Capitals, 1-0-2, 4 points, .652 RP%
  4. Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1-0, 4 points, .645 RP%

Wouldn’t that be funny?