Sometimes we forget. We get so caught up in the playoff race, the points behind, the projected chances of making it, the games that could swing the playoff race, the magic numbers, the teams to leapfrog, that we forget it’s not just about sneaking in the postseason for some teams.
The Carolina Hurricanes? For sure. If they get in, it’s about getting in. It would be a heck of an accomplishment. That's true for the Toronto Maple Leafs, too. If they make the playoffs, that accomplishment alone says so much about their growth this season and their potential for the near future. It would be an important step in the development of a franchise not far from greatness.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a completely different story. This isn’t a team that has eyes only on finding a way to scrap and claw their way into the playoffs for the sake of making the playoffs.
“If you make the playoffs and lose in the first round, does it change anything?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, throwing a dose of reality into the Lightning’s current fight.
In their case, no. No it doesn’t.
The Lightning, kind of like the 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings, are that rare team that can sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season and be considered a team very much capable of winning it all.