NHL Playoff Race: Crosby hat trick kills the Cats to help the Lightning

Sidney Crosby’s hat trick propelled the Penguins past the Panthers, but the Flyers and Canes went to overtime.

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

Sidney Crosby must have seen that he was tied for the league lead in goals with Rat Face Brad Marchand. He couldn’t have that and put up a hat trick on Jonathan Bernier and the Florida Panthers. The Flyers and Hurricanes went to overtime for the worst case possible for the Lightning. As I write this, the Flames are up 4-2 on the Los Angeles Kings after two periods, so I’m leaving it to our lovely editors to give me a hand in the morning to update the Kings game score. But that game doesn’t impact the Lightning’s playoff chances.

  • Florida Panthers 0 @ Pittsburgh Penguins 4 - Best Case
  • Carolina Hurricanes 3 @ Philadelphia Flyers 4 OT - Worst Case
  • Los Angeles Kings @ Calgary Flames - Worst Case/

Tonight’s Games that Matter

The five game Monday schedule gives us two games to care about. Unfortunately, one of them features two teams that are ahead of the Lightning in the standings so we have to pick the lesser of two evils. The other game is the Kings.

Boston Bruins @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: Bruins win in regulation

OK Case: Bruins win in overtime or shootout

Worst Case: Toronto wins in any fashion

Unlike other games where two teams in the race are going against each other, this is one where the worst case isn’t an overtime game. It’s more important in this match up to keeping Toronto from getting any points. To catch Boston, we first have to catch the Maple Leafs. Or see the Maple Leafs surpass Boston which means it’s going to be even harder to get into the playoffs since the Bruins sit further in front of the Lightning.

Los Angeles Kings @ Edmonton Oilers

Best Case: Kings win in any fashion

OK Case: Kings lose in overtime or regulation

Worst Case: Kings lose in regulation

The Kings will take on the young, and good, Oilers on the back side of a back-to-back with travel. The Kings have continued to slip further from the playoffs and their chances are looking even bleaker than the Lightning’s. They are going to need to go on an incredible run to the end of the season to make it into the playoffs. It doesn’t really look like they are going to manage to do that.