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NHL Playoff Race: Lightning win and don’t get much else

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 the Lightning to make it to the wild-card spot, or possibly even third in the Atlantic division, they’ll need some help along the way. Not only do they need to win their games, they need to win more games than three or four other teams that are also fighting for playoff spots. With this feature, we’ll review how other teams helped (or hurt) the Lightning, and who you should be cheering for. We’ll continue this either until the Lightning secure a playoff spot… or are eliminated.

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

The Lightning managed to win convincingly against the Dallas Stars. Peter Budaj did his best and only allowed three goals on the night while the Lightning garnered five before getting the empty netter. The rest of the day was a bag of nothing on the teams that the Lightning are chasing. With the Bruins’ victory, they continue to pull away and have put themselves into second in the Atlantic, a point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. However, they have only three games remaining while the Leafs and Senators have five games each. There is still opportunity for them to move back ahead of the Bruins. With the Flyers losing and the Bruins winning, the Flyers were eliminated from playoff contention.

  • Dallas Stars 3 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 6 – Best Case
  • Boston Bruins 3 @ Chicago Blackhawks 2 – Worst Case
  • New York Islanders 4 @ Buffalo Sabres 2 – Worst Case
  • Carolina Hurricanes 2 @ Pittsburgh Penguins 3 – Best Case
  • Philadelphia Flyers 3 @ New York Rangers 4 – Best Case/

Tonight’s Games that Matter

Only three games are on the schedule for Monday night, but we do get two games that matter because both teams are ahead of the Lightning in the standings.

Ottawa Senators @ Detroit Red Wings

Best Case: Red Wings win in regulation

OK Case: Red Wings win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Senators win in any fashion

With the Bruins surging despite their difficult schedule to close out the season, more of our watching attention is shifting to the Senators. As I mentioned yesterday, they’re 2-5-3 in their last ten games and have lost their last two. Erik Karlsson is listed as day-to-day and could return at any time after being injured while blocking a shot with his foot. It doesn’t sound like he’ll play tonight against the Detroit Red Wings though. Cody Ceci also left the game Saturday with an injury. The Senators were already struggling and are now missing two important pieces of their blue line.

The Senators have a bit of a rough schedule to finish out the year. While all the flights are short, they alternate home and away games and cross the border between each game. They have a back-to-back with Detroit tonight and in Ottawa tomorrow. They play at Boston on Thursday. Then they finish the season with a back-to-back at home on Saturday against the New York Rangers and at the New York Islanders on Sunday.

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Buffalo Sabres

Best Case: Sabres win in regulation

OK Case: Sabres win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

The Maple Leafs continue to roll towards the postseason. After tonight’s game against the Sabres, they finish the season with a four-game homestand. That stretch of games will not be a cake walk though, they play against the Washington Capitals tomorrow and the Lightning on Thursday. They finish with a back-to-back against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Capitals are close to wrapping up home-ice advantage through the playoffs. The Penguins and the Blue Jackets are battling for who can be the second place team in the Metropolitan Division. There won’t be any resting up for the playoffs, the Maple Leafs play those teams. A loss tonight against the Sabres would be a good step to allowing the Lightning to maintain contact because they sit three points behind with the Leafs with a game in hand.

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