NHL Playoff Race: Lightning with another opportunity to take the wild card spot

With a Lightning win and a Maple Leafs and Islanders loss, the Lightning would take over the second wild card spot.

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 only game that mattered last night was the Florida Panthers taking on the Rangers. Unfortunately, the Rangers didn’t do their job.

  • Florida Panthers 4 @ New York Rangers 3 OT/SO - Worst Case/

Tonight’s Games That Matter

The Lightning are back in action at home against the Washington Capitals. The health of the Lightning is still in question and has only gotten murkier as Ondrej Palat and Jake Dotchin have been dinged up the past couple days, leading to the recall of Joel Vermin. Beyond the Lightning game, we only have two others to keep an eye on today. They are the two most important teams for the Lightning to watch.

Washington Capitals @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Case: Lightning win in any fashion

OK Case: Lightning lose in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Lightning lose in regulation

The Capitals have been the best team in the NHL. Right now, they’re not playing that way. The Lightning are coming off of an embarrassingly flat performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night. The Capitals are 4-5-1 in their last ten and 1-4-1 in their last six. Over their six game slide, they’ve only scored 13 goals with four of them coming in their win over the Minnesota Wild. The Capitals are looking to right the ship and the Lightning are looking to rebound from their loss. This should be the set up for a pretty intense game.

Columbus Blue Jackets @ New York Islanders

Best Case: Blue Jackets win in regulation

OK Case: Blue Jackets win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Islanders win in any fashion

The Blue Jackets are only two points behind Washington and a point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve been a surprise team in the NHL and have put up a great season already. The Islanders sit tied with the Lightning for points, but control the tie breaker. Should the Islanders win this game, the best way for that to happen would be in the shootout to help the Lightning in the tie breaker column.

Chicago Blackhawks @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: Blackhawks win in regulation

OK Case: Blackhawks win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Maple Leafs win in any fashion

I hate cheering for the Blackhawks, but this is one of those games the Lightning really needs them to win. Chicago is riding a three game win streak and have the power and goaltending to take on the Maple Leafs. The Lightning sit just one point behind Toronto for the second wild card spot, though Toronto has a game in hand that can allow them to make up more points. Like the Islanders, they have a small edge in the tiebreaker, so if Toronto is to win, the Lightning wants it to be in the shootout.