With just six games left in the regular season, the Lightning has punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Lightning still have a lot to play for, notwithstanding. If the season ended today, the Lightning would not have a home-ice advantage for any series until possibly the conference finals, providing they win their first two preliminary series.
The Lightning are three points behind first-place Carolina and one point behind second-place Florida in the division. The Lightning will not play the Carolina Hurricanes again this season.
The Lightning has two games remaining against Detroit, Dallas, and two against the Florida Panthers to wrap up the regular season.
There is a slim chance that the Lightning can still win the division, but with the way the Hurricanes have been playing, that seems unlikely.
It is possible that the Lightning could slide into second place in the division with a sweep of the Panthers to end the season. This would give the Bolts the home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff matchup against the Panthers.
Carolina has six games remaining. One against Columbus, three against Chicago, and two against the Nashville Predators.
The Lightning is still planning on the return of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov to the post-season lineup. With the regular season-ending pushed back to May 19th, that will give Stamkos and Kucherov additional rehab time to get ready for the post-season.
The Lightning must use these last six games to work on some deficiencies in their game to get ready for another deep playoff run.
Like the play-in games last season, the Lightning need to work on their defense in these last six games.
We saw last season how important defense is in the playoffs, and the Lightning have yet to play at that level consistently.
The 3-0 shutout win over the Dallas Stars was a good start, but with Detroit on the horizon, the Lightning needs to continue to work on getting their defense ready for that playoff run.
The Lightning allowed Dallas two shots on goal in the third period. That is how you play championship hockey that will carry a team deep in the playoffs.
The Lightning also needs to play more disciplined hockey. The Lightning has taken two, seven, four, and three penalties the last four games. Most of these penalties are a result of just not being focused and playing smart hockey.
The Lightning will have to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box in the playoffs.
The Lightning has all the ingredients in place to make another deep playoff run. It comes down to being willing to do the little things necessary to get themselves another championship.