Lightning Round: Is it too early to start thinking about magic numbers?
The postseason is looming.
Believe it or not the end of the regular season is right around the corner for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We’ve moved under the one month to go mark for the Bolts and following their 4-3 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils they now have only have 13 games to go before the normal season is over and the playoffs begin. They end the night where they began, in the third spot in the Atlantic Division. So, is it too early to start thinking about clinching a playoff spot?
No, not really. Following the win, the Lightning now have 88 points in 69 games. They trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by just a point, but the Leafs have two games in hand on them at the moment. That being said, the Lightning still have a reasonable chance to catch them and claim home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
More importantly, with Thursday’s win over the Devils, the Lightning maintained their 13 point lead over the Florida Panthers for the third and final guaranteed spot in the postseason. With their recent hot steak (6-3-1) the Panthers have moved into the fourth spot in the Atlantic and are three points behind the Penguins and the Islanders, who are currently occupying the two Wild Card spots.
Florida has completed 68 games and earned 75 points. Right now the maximum amount of points they can earn is 103 points (14 games remaining x 2 points per game = 28. 28+75=103). So, even if they were to win out, the Lightning could still claim the third position and a spot in the playoffs with 104 points. Therefore their “magic” number to clinch a spot in the postseason is sitting at 16 points. Any points gained by the Lightning or lost by the Panthers will further reduce that number.
If this was baseball and each win only counted for one point in the standings, it may be a different story, but with each win counting for two points, and each loss being two points denied, that 16 number could dwindle pretty quickly. Even with a relatively tough schedule down the road, the Bolts have an opportunity to pick up points rather quickly. Three of their next four game are against non-playoff teams (2 vs. Montreal, 1 vs. Ottawa).
Florida does have a back-to-back against Detroit and Philly coming up, but they also have New Jersey, Toronto, and the Rangers over the next week. If they drop a couple of those games, their climb to the third spot becomes quite steep.
The focus for the Lightning right now should be on improving their play on the ice, something we’ve seen over the last week or so, without really worrying about the actual game results. However, the nice thing is, that improved play should lead to wins, wins leads to points, and points lead to clinching a spot in the playoffs.
Making the playoffs is the primary goal of the regular season for the Lightning. Right now a difference of just 16 points stands between them and that goal.
Lightning / NHL News
Lightning 4, Devils 3 (SO) [Raw Charge]
“The Bolts definitely weathered a storm in the second half of the game as the Devils came at them with everything they had. A even strength goal right after the 5v3 kill and the power play goal with five minutes left kept the Devils at arm’s length enough to get the overtime and eventually win.”
Micah with a colorful viz on each team’s current playoff chances.
Cup chances, March 16. pic.twitter.com/zPyXLCvKol— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 16, 2023
Picking the Lightning’s all-time line-up [The Athletic]
Old friend Joe Smith is back with a four-line, three-pairing, two-goalie look at the best players to put on a Lightning sweater, just in time for the inaugural Hall of Fame weekend. I can’t really disagree with any of the picks he made. Khabibulin vs. Bishop for the second goalie was by far the toughest call.
Esposito was the obvious choice for the 2023 class [NHL.com]
There is no Tampa Bay Lightning without Phil Esposito. It’s that simple.
Niko Huuhtanen’s development continues in Liiga [Bolts by the Bay]
The 19-year-old Finn may be the most intriguing prospect in the system right now. After a solid season in the Liiga, will he make the jump over to the Syracuse Crunch next season?
Lightning looking for right lines as postseason nears [Tampa Bay Times]
It’s time to start dialing in some combinations outside of the top line. The Stamkos/Paul/Colton line could be intriguing.
Has Jordan Binnington taken the most insufferable player in the NHL crown from Brad Marchand? At least Marchand seems in on the joke at times.
Jordan Binnington has been suspended two games by @NHLPlayerSafety. Joel Hofer has been recalled under emergency conditions. #stlblues https://t.co/YmVf1ZD9ZL— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) March 16, 2023
Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury remains undefeated. “I’m going to get my stuff.”
Enjoy 🌸 x 🥊#mnwild pic.twitter.com/U2X2h4ouYK— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) March 16, 2023