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Lightning Round: Listing first round playoff scenarios for the Tampa Bay Lightning

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And answering the question of home ice.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Mar 21, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ross Colton (79) skates with the puck as Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) defends during the third period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning are guaranteed for the 2021 playoffs and they’re guaranteed to finish no lower than third in the Central Division. The Carolina Hurricanes currently hold first, with 80 points and two games left in their season. Tampa have three games left (starting tonight) and are five points back with 75 points. Doing some quick math, the Lightning would need to capture all six of the available points and hope the Hurricanes lose both their games against Nashville this weekend.

It’s safe to say the Canes are going to win the division and play the Nashville Predators (sorry, Dallas). With that goal out of reach, the next target is beating the Florida Panthers for home ice in the first round. The all-Florida series should be interesting as the two teams have split the season series with three wins each through six games. After tonight’s game against Dallas, the rivals will finish the season/start their series in Florida for two games to determine home ice advantage going into the seven-game series.

After some confusing math done by looking at the standings and calendar, if the Lightning can find four points within their next three games, they’ll take home ice. A win against Dallas makes things easier, but any kind of win against Florida would seal the deal. This is because the Panthers need to be ahead in points as Tampa hold the tiebreaker. So if they’re both even on 77 points, Tampa gets second place.

A secondary concern is who gets fourth and plays Carolina. Mathematically, Tampa cannot play Dallas because Dallas needs to win out to make the playoffs and Tampa needs to win out to get first place, and for Carolina to lose out, Nashville would need to win out. Basically, there’s a tiny chance Tampa could play Nashville in the first round if both teams sweep the rest of their games. For Dallas to make the playoffs, they’d need five points in their next three games against Tampa Bay and Chicago (they don’t have the tiebreaker on Nashville).

While all of these weird scenarios are interesting, and would be amazingly entertaining if they happened, they’re not very likely. And if all the words above are confusing, here’s an even more confusing (but colorful!) flow chart!

TL;DR: Tampa more-or-less have second place locked down. Micah estimates the first round series against Florida will be 50/50.

Lightning Links

The NHL fined the New York Rangers $250,000 and suspended Pavel Buchnevich one game for the fallout as a result of Tom Wilson’s $5,000 fine.

You can be rest assured there were memes.

Meanwhile, ESPN is trying to hire Wayne Gretzky as a broadcaster for next season. I’m sure he can explain things just as well as he did with the players in Phoenix that he coached. [The Athletic]