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Have the Lightning Rekindled their Playoff Hopes?

“To be perfectly honest, we haven’t been looking ahead, it’s just, ‘Who are we playing tonight?’ Now we can sit here and say clearly the Toronto game’s a big game for us. Last night was the Rangers, tonight it was Ottawa. Those boys, man are they battling hard. It’s been a lot of fun to be behind the bench with these guys. It was a lot of fun. That was a heck of a hockey game by the way. I don’t know if you guys saw the same thing, but oh man was it fast.” – Head Coach Jon Cooper (Talking about why his team is playing so well right now)

Look at this team in the month of March….Go ahead I’ll wait. The Tampa bay Lightning have only lost twice in the month of March. The Bolts have also won four consecutive games (Wild, Panthers, Rangers and Senators). They have picked up point in eight of their last nine games, and have recorded at least a point in nine of their last 10 road games. A big part of the recent turnaround (Not the only part) has been the stellar play of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Since taking over for Ben Bishop at the trade deadline, Vasilevskiy is 6-0-1 and has record 30-plus saves in six of his last seven starts.

Let’s also add in the fact that players not named the Triplets (Kucherov, Johnson and Palat) are starting to score. Most notably Brayden Point, who has had three goals in his last two games. This team seems to have hit their stride at the absolute right moment. After struggles throughout the season that had fans wondering what happened, things have finally taken a turn.

This is a team that is playing minus their captain (Steven Stamkos) and forward Ryan Callahan. Early on this team dealt with key injuries at inopportune times, but through it all here they sit battling for their playoff lives with 13 games still to play. Following their win against Ottawa Tuesday night, the Bolts are now tied with the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot. Not too long ago the Lightning were hovering around last place in the Eastern Conference.

Fans never gave up hope on this team, on this very site I wrote an article back in January that said “The Window isn’t Closing Just Yet”. The Eastern Conference is the Wild Wild West this season with many teams still in the playoff hunt. If the Lightning can keep playing at the top tier level they are playing at right now, this is still a team that could make a serious run in the playoffs.

One step at a time though as they are still technically on the outside looking in as of this writing. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for this team to get in. Thankfully they’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting themselves, but they will still need some help along the way. With the way they’ve shown a new found fifth gear the road the the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a little bit easier.

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