Tampa Bay Lightning clinches top spot in Atlantic Division

(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Despite an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the final game of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning has clinched the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning held their destiny in their hands as they headed into the final game of the regular season. After a heart-pounding shutout victory over the Boston Bruins, the Lightning could clinch the Atlantic Division by emerging victoriously in their final two games of the season.

The Bolts were victorious over the Buffalo Sabres, but they were dealt a 3-2 overtime loss by the Carolina Hurricanes. This took the Lightning’s destiny out of their hands and into the hands of an all-too-familiar foe, the Lightning’s in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers.

If the Lightning had any hopes of finishing at the top of the Atlantic Division, the Florida Panthers would have to defeat the Boston Bruins. As any Lightning fan can attest to, this is not always the easiest of challenges. While the Panthers playoff hopes were hanging by a thread, they weren’t done fighting just yet.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Panthers ended their season on a high note, and did a real solid for their neighbors to the north, as they delivered a 4-2 defeat to the Boston Bruins. While this defeat did not block the Bruins from making their way into the postseason, it did put the Division Championship back where it spent most of the season, with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

While finishing at the top of the Atlantic Division is not the defining factor in the Lightning’s journey to the postseason, it is definitely something which will keep the team fueled as they move forward. The last time the Lightning topped the Atlantic Division at the end of the regular season the Bolts won the Stanley Cup.

Whether or not this is the year the Lightning will return to the Stanley Cup Final is largely unknown at this point. The Bolts will have to face some serious competition throughout the playoffs, including the team which gave the Lightning numerous headaches throughout the season, the Bruins.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Tampa Bay Lightning right now is getting (and staying) healthy. Thankfully, one of the more essential pieces of the Lightning’s offense and leadership core, captain Steven Stamkos, is expected to return to the ice once the playoffs kick off on April 11.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has quite a challenge in front of them. The good news here is the Lightning is arguably one of the most talented rosters in the National Hockey League.

The obstacles the Bolts have encountered this season have sometimes been of their own doing. A lack of focus, loss of passion, and inconsistent play has plagued the Bolts at certain points during the season. Hopefully, these issues have completely come to a close with the end of the regular season.

The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are no place to bring your ‘B’ game. One simple mistake can determine whether a team advances to the next round or end up making their way into the offseason a little earlier than anticipated.

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The Tampa Bay Lightning definitely has momentum on their side heading into the postseason. Winning the Atlantic Division Championship should provide the Lightning with the inspiration they need in order to keep momentum on their side and prepare them for a deep run in the playoffs.