NHL Playoff Race: Big weekend looms

Back-to-backs against Montreal and Dallas will be a big help, or a major blow, to Tampa's chances.

With the Lightning clawing their way back into the playoff picture since the trade deadline, and with the end of the season within sight, it’s time to start scoreboard watching.

For every game we review, we’ll determine a Best Case, OK Case, and Worst Case scenario for each game. For each review, we’ll determine which actually happened for the Lightning. With thanks to @ElSeldo of Pension Plan Puppets for the inspiration.

Last Night’s Games

Last night, Montreal clinched their spot in the playoffs with 97 points. They'll be in Tampa tonight, so let's hope Claude Julien sees fit to rest his hard-hitters against a scrappy, embattled Tampa Bay team. Last night the Islanders won their match against the New Jersey Devils in regulation, which keeps them one point behind Tampa and six points behind Boston for that last wild card slot. Tampa and Carolina both have one game in hand on the Islanders, so their situation is looking increasingly bad. And to that we say: good.

  • New Jersey Devils 1 @ New York Islanders 2 - Worst Case/

Tonight’s Games that Matter

Florida @ Boston:

Best case: Florida wins in regulation.

Ok case: Florida wins in overtime or a shootout.

Worst case: Boston wins in any fashion.

At 77 games played and 88 points, a Boston loss tonight would keep that last wild card spot within reach of Tampa, especially when we face them head-to-head on Tuesday. Pray for the strength of the Cats, who have the ability to take down unsuspecting teams, especially when they’ve spent the day out fishing. Another win against Boston would give Tampa the head-to-head tiebreaker. ROW only counts until Boston picks up one ROW win, then it no longer matters.

Toronto @ Detroit:

Best case: Detroit wins in regulation.

Worst case: Toronto wins in any fashion.

At 89 points and the same number of games played as Tampa, Toronto is still within Tampa's reach. Sadly they play the craptastic Detroit Red Wings tonight, and there is nothing Mike Babcock enjoys more than destroying his old team. Hopefully some embers of a rivalry rise and Detroit helps keep them at 89 points. Any kind of point will increase the distance between Toronto and Tampa, so a clean regulation win by Detroit would be the best case.

[From Geo:] Tampa can still catch Toronto, but Toronto has to play two wins worse than Tampa for the team to do so. If the rest of Toronto’s season sees a 4-2-0 record, Tampa will have to pass them on ROW tiebreakers, and Tampa would have to win all six games. but if Toronto’s record is 3-3-0, Tampa can lose a game in OT or a shootout, 5-0-1, and surpass Toronto on points — or 5-1-0 and maybe beat them on tiebreakers.

Montreal @ Tampa

Best Case: Tampa wins in any fashion.

OK Case: Tampa loses in overtime or a shootout.

Worst Case: Montreal wins in regulation.

We previewed the game over here, but basically, Tampa needs points. Montreal is so far ahead that they can get the loser point and not impact Tampa.

Dallas @ Carolina

Best Case: Dallas wins in regulation.

OK Case: Dallas wins in overtime or a shootout.

Worst Case: Carolina wins in any fashion.

Carolina has the same number of games played as Tampa, and sits just one point behind Tampa in the hunt for the wild card slot. A loss would be nice, especially if Tampa doesn’t pick up any points tonight.