Tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks kicks off a five-game homestand for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Nashville Predators follow them before the Bolts take to the road again on April 24th (all the way to Sunrise). By the time the stretch of games is over we should have a pretty good idea of where the Lightning will stand in regards to the playoff race.
In all likelihood they will have clinched a playoff spot by then, and the only question will be if they can move all the way up to the second spot in the Atlantic and home ice advantage for the first round. Technically they can still catch the Florida Panthers for the division crown, but it ain’t likely (Florida currently sits at 110 points, 14 points ahead of the Bolts). Toronto at 100 points is still in range, though.
While everyone in the organization will say that making the playoffs is more important than where they are seeded, there would be some advantage to having home ice against a team like the Leafs. Being able to have last say in the line match-ups for the majority of the series could be big in the postseason.
Lightning / NHL Links
Balancing the prospects and the prospect of the playoffs in Syracuse [Raw Charge]
The Crunch have been rolling right along over the last two months. They’re in a playoff spot, but they are also part of the Lightning’s developmental system. Juggling those two aspects is par for the course for the AHL.
Crunch beat Springfield, 4-2 [Syracuse Crunch]
For the second time in two meetings with the Thunderbirds, the Crunch spotted them a lead only to come roaring back. It was the veterans that led the way as Gemel Smith, Riley Nash, and Gabriel Dumont (x2) all scored. Max Legace stopped 23-of-25 for his third straight win.
Canvassing opinions on the Lightning’s close-to-ready prospects [The Athletic]
Lets keep the Crunch Content rolling. Joe Smith spent some time up in Syracuse watching the Crunch and he gives his opinion on some of the prospects that might be in Tampa soon. He also consulted a few unnamed scouts for their opinions. Personally, I agree with most of what he says, but may be a little higher on Alex Green than the scouts.
Despite loss to Stars, Lightning like their defensive play [Tampa Bay Times]
The Lightning have clamped down on the goals against over the last three games (including two against playoff-caliber teams). In the past, when they’ve worked things out in their own end, they tend to start putting together winning streaks. It could be just the right time to do so.
Heaven’s biggest Lightning fan [NHL.com]
Andrew Krepps passed away last year at the age of 21, his family his keeping his memory (and passion for the Lightning) alive at home games.
Report - Boston Bruins to host Pittsburgh Penguins at Fenway in 2023 Winter Classic [Pensburgh]
In a little bit of sports ownership synergy the Penguins, owned by Fenway Sports Group, will be playing in their owners namesake ballpark for the next Winter Classic. Yes, it’s a triple repeat as the Penguins, Bruins, and Fenway have all been featured in outdoor games before, but hey, Sidney Crosby is 34-years-old now, you never know when it might be the last time he can be in the spotlight.
Power rankings - the biggest decision for every team [ESPN]
Colorado takes the top spot once again in ESPN’s weekly poll. The inconsistent play from the Lightning have dropped them to 7th and the Worldwide Leader’s question about the team is:
We talk about the potential for a Tampa three-peat. Only, what if they don’t? It might be a hard offseason for a team that’s handed off high draft picks to chase another Stanley Cup now. Will it spell the end for pending UFA Ondrej Palat in Tampa? Will more of the Lightning’s core have to be dismantled? There’s a lot riding on this postseason.
Jerry York, all-time winningest men’s college hockey coach retires [BC Interruption]
At 76-years-old, and after 28 years at Boston College, Jerry York has hung up his whistle. With four NCAA hockey championships under his belt, York leaves with a pretty impressive resume. Defenseman Eamon Powell was the latest of the Lightning prospects to play for York at BC.
Ryan Hartman fined by NHL after altercation with Evander Kane in Tuesday’s game [Star Tribune]
After the two scrapped in the Wild’s 5-1 win over the Oilers, Hartman indicated that Kane was “number one” with a certain finger. He was assessed a $4,250 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct by the league. Several people have already sent some money to help Hartman out.