Can you believe we’re down to the final two weeks of the season? After two truncated seasons, a full 82-game schedule has taken just short of an eternity to complete. The Tampa Bay Lightning have seven games left with three of them coming this week. For the Bolts it will be an interesting trio of games.
After two days off they kick things off with a match on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings. It will be their third straight game against a non-playoff team and a chance to run their winning streak to three games, a stretch of success that they’ve only had once since the middle of February.
After that, it’s a showdown with the team they’re chasing in the standings, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Lightning will have a game in hand when they meet and the chance to cut into the deficit between the two teams. Right now it stands at six points after the Maple Leafs beat the New York Islanders, 4-2, on Sunday.
That makes the game against Detroit a little more important than a normal playoff-bound team facing a team that is currently more concerned with the draft than the rest of the regular season. If the Lightning beat them and the Leafs lost to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, the gap shrinks to four points, with the Bolts having a chance to cut it to two on Thursday, still with that game in hand. Should the opposite happen (Bolts lose, Leafs win on Tuesday) an eight-point gap may be a little too much to overcome by the end of the season.
After that battle, the Lightning will take on the Nashville Predators, a team fighting for their playoff lives. They are currently in the second wild card spot in the West with a four-point lead on the Vegas Golden Knights. They will also be looking for a little revenge for the Stadium Series game where the Lightning went into their house, well the Titans house, and upset their little weekend celebration.
So, it’s a week with a little bit of everything - a team they should beat, a team they need to beat, and a team that can’t afford to be beaten. Should make for some interesting games.
Lightning / NHL News
Three Things we Learned from the Jets Win [Tampa Bay Lightning]
- No complacency after clinching a playoff spot
- Best players making big plays
- Finding the right fit
Are the Lightning back? [The Athletic]
Don’t get happy. Yes, they finished strong, but it’ll take more than one good period to declare that they are the team we remember from the last two playoff runs. Still, it was great to see them flying around and putting the puck in the net.
Lightning find their ‘old selves’ during goals-fest [The Tampa Bay Times]
Some more quotes about the Winnipeg game. If nothing else it seems like they are getting their confidence back.
Auston Matthews out with minor injury [Sportsnet]
The leading goal-scorer in the league was out on Sunday and is listed as day-to-day. There is the possibility that they are resting him up before two big matches against the Lightning and the Panthers. He is currently sitting on 58 goals for the season.
Carolina lose Jordan Staal and Frederik Andersen to injuries [ESPN]
One of the top teams in the Eastern Conference lost to one of the best teams in the Western Conference on Saturday. They also lost two key players in Frederik Andersen and Jordan Staal for an indeterminate amount of time. That’s not great.