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Lightning Round: Tampa Bay can clinch a playoff spot tonight

C’mon, lose Islanders!

Tampa Bay Lightning v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - JUNE 08: The Tampa Bay Lightning shake hands with the Carolina Hurricanes following Game Five of the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on June 08, 2021 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning can officially book their seat in the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight with a win over the Dallas Stars on the road tonight. They could also make it if the New York Islanders, who currently sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, lose their game to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the same night. An overtime loss by the Bolts and Islanders would also do it, for the record.

A successful night would send the Lightning to the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years (or since Stamkos and Hedman were 23). The Lightning have won 15 series in the seven years during that time, including two Stanley Cup, which I’m sure you all already knew.

Once the formality of a playoff spot is done away with, the Lightning have two options ahead of them.

  1. Foot off the gas, rest up, focus on practices ahead of the first round
  2. Push hard to beat Boston and maybe Toronto for a divisional spot

The team will probably end up trying to do a bit of both, but I don’t think the Bolts are overly worried about having to face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round — who would be their opponent if the Panthers are first in the conference and the Lightning are in the first wild card. The Bolts beat the Hurricanes handily in five games just last season in the second round. They believe they can do it again.

Katya Knappe over at our sister site Pension Plan Puppets wrote a really great article on the Atlantic Division playoff matchups, including from the Lightning’s perspective. After looking at the final schedules, she has the Bolts winning third in the division and playing the Leafs — or possibly ahead of them with home ice — with the Bruins going over to the Metro. We’ll see how things unfold, but I would definitely read her article for a full breakdown.

“On the strength of one win over the Sabres, Tampa moved back into third yesterday, and I think theirs is as weak a final set of opponents as Florida has. If anyone is going to go on a heater it’s the Lightning. But their final four games are in six days, and they are also smart enough to know the playoffs are not a sprint.”

Lightning Links

Biggest news in the NHL is Evgeni Malkin getting suspended for four games — this includes two games against the Islanders and two games against the Bruins — for a cross-check on Mark Borowiecki.

The Bolts are in Texas right now after travelling yesterday, they will have a morning skate before the game where we’ll see what lineup to expect. I wonder how many Brian Elliott starts we’re going to get in the final 10 games. More than half?

Keep an eye out for the 2023 Men’s World Junior Championships to move to Ontario, Canada. The tournament was initially going to be held in Russia, but that was changed for, uhh, obvious reasons.