This “Spring Break” – for lack of a better term – for the Tampa Bay Lightning has come at a great time in their season.
With nine out of their last 11 games being against playoff-contending teams – including two against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals – and a list of injuries starting to pile up, with Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Ondrej Palat all on the shelf, this four-day break for the Bolts could not have come at a better time.
This is also not to mention the fact that the remaining schedule for Tampa Bay will feature four out of five games against playoff-caliber teams, including another game against the Caps tomorrow, the Montreal Canadiens next week and a game each against the already-clinched Boston Bruins and nearly-clinched Toronto Maple Leafs. All of these Eastern Conference foes are potential playoff matchups that the Bolts could see within the first two rounds.
The Canadiens are one of three more-than-likely teams that the Bolts will see in the First Round, depending upon how the Wild Card battle in the East plays out between the Habs, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes. Meanwhile, if the Lightning advance past the First Round, it appears they will be destined to meet whoever survives the duel between the Bruins and Leafs. And many believe and are predicting that we could witness a 2018 Eastern Conference Final rematch between the Caps and Bolts.
Based off of those not-too-bold predictions and hypotheticals, the rest of this regular-season schedule for Tampa Bay really sets up nicely in giving this well-rested Bolts lineup one last look at these anticipated playoff opponents. Also, what better way to prepare for the Stanley Cup Playoffs than matching up against some of the NHL’s most elite teams?
Both Stralman and Palat could return as soon as tomorrow’s game against Washington, while Girardi is hopefully expected to be ready for the start of the postseason.
This four-day break sure did have some impeccable timing and we will see just how much this powerhouse team can benefit from it down the stretch of these last five regular-season games.