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Lightning Round: Breaking down the last month of the regular season

The Bolts vs. the Leafs is a potential first-round matchup

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the last month of the regular season with a confident win over the mediocre Chicago Blackhawks and a shootout loss in a sloppy game against the already eliminated Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning haven’t clinched a playoff spot officially yet, but with a 22-point lead over the New York Islanders, who are currently the best team amongst those still chasing the playoffs, they can feel pretty optimistic about postseason. However, that doesn’t mean that the Bolts can relax and prepare for the playoffs, as the team is still in the fight for a better place in the standings and a home-ice advantage in the first round.

The Lightning have 14 games left in the regular season. Unlike the previous month, the Bolts will play a majority of them at Amalie Arena: nine games will be played at home ice, while five games will be on the road. The longest away stretch will be at the end of April, when the Lightning will play against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders in two final games of the regular season. This is also one of the two back-to-back set of games in the last month, the other one will be on April 23-24, when the Lightning will play the Nashville Predators and the Florida Panthers. 10 out of 14 remaining games will be against teams from the Eastern Conference and half of these 14 games will be against teams currently in a playoff spot.

The Lightning are currently third in the Atlantic Division. They have the same amount of points as the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Bolts are lower because of Toronto’s regulation wins. The Boston Bruins are two points behind both the Leafs and the Bolts. The Leafs have emerged as the most probable opponent in the first round of the upcoming playoffs. They already played twice this season with each team recording one win. The Leafs won the first game between them back in October, while the Bolts took revenge a couple of month later. Both games were played in Toronto. The Bolts and Leafs will play two times more in the remaining month and the next game will be played tomorrow in Tampa. Aside from the Leafs, the Bolts will meet the Bruins on April 8 and the Panthers on April 24.

According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s point projection, the Lightning will finish third in the Atlantic Division, which will assure them a first-round matchup against the Leafs without home-ice advantage.

Lightning Links

The Lightning dropped a two-goal lead over the Canadiens, losing to them in a shootout on a Saturday night [Raw Charge]

Despite numerous gaffes and turnovers the Lightning had a first period lead thanks to goals by Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli. They also had a two-goal lead in the second period compliments of a Nikita Kucherov power play goal and a lead going into the third period due to a Brayden Point goal at the end of the second.

Montreal just wouldn’t go away as they turned odd-man rushes into goals and uses their speed to cause havoc for the Lightning defense. Cole Caufield, Corey Schueneman, Josh Anderson, and Jesse Ylonen had the regulation goals for the Canadiens. Jake Allen stopped 37 of 41 for the Habs while Brian Elliott stopped 27 of 41 for the Lightning.

The Syracuse Crunch scored eight goals to secure a win over the Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday. Anthony Richards and Simon Ryfors scored two goals each for Syracuse, Amir Miftakhov stopped 25-of-30 shots.

The Orlando Solar Bears suffered a big loss against the South Carolina Stingrays.

Hockey News

Nine games were played in the NHL last night.

The next Lightning’s opponent — the Toronto Maple Leafs — defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 on a Saturday night. Auston Matthews scored his 51st goal of the season.

Keith Yandle’s iron man streak ended at 989 after the Flyers defenceman became a healthy streak for the game against the Leafs.

The New Jersey Devils blew a four-goal lead and lost the game in the overtime to the Florida Panthers.

The Dallas Stars defeated the San Jose Sharks, pushing the Vegas Golden Knights out of the playoff spot.

Kiril Kaprizov set a new record for the most points in a single regular season in the Minnesota Wild history with 84 points in 66 games.