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Prepare for yet another Tampa Bay Lightning playoff run

It’s time to Be The Thunder.

A group of Tampa Bay Lightning players celebrates a goal by the glass. They are dressed in their blue uniforms and are hugging each other while the crowd celebrates behind.

Let’s hope for plenty of scenes like this in the coming weeks.

Photo via the Tampa Bay Lightning

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There are only three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and the Tampa Bay Lightning making the postseason.

Our Bolts have made it back to the NHL playoffs for a remarkable seventh consecutive year, and are on the hunt to hoist the Stanley Cup into the sky once more.

We’re here to get you in the playoffs spirit:

How did we get here?

While many of us here in TBAY assume a hockey playoff berth is a rite of passage, it’s not quite as simple as that.

If you want simple, here are two words: Nikita Kucherov. The winger from Southern Russia has been a hockey player possessed this year, recently becoming only the fifth person in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season. Kuch’s talismanic heroics throughout the year have spearheaded a campaign to crown him league-wide MVP — an honor acknowledged in hockey via the Hart Trophy. He also just won the second Art Ross Trophy of his career — awarded to the player with the most points in the league. As the Lightning keep posting on social media, #Kuch4MVP.

The Bolts have become known for their attacking prowess in the 2023-24 season, averaging 3.51 goals per game — that’s the league’s fifth-highest amount. And keep your eyes on the refs. When the Lightning get a power play — meaning the opposing team loses a player due to a penalty — they have the highest scoring percentage in the NHL this year.

Watch out for Kucherov, Brayden Point, and stalwart skipper Steven Stamkos, who have all scored 40+ goals through the season.

Nikita Kucherov fist bumps his team mates. He is on the ice and they are on the bench.

“Kuuuuuuuuch.”

Photo via the Tampa Bay Lightning

What comes next?

Kuch and Co. now know their Round 1 opponent: The Florida Panthers. As the Panthers are seeded higher, the first game is on the road for the Bolts on Sunday, April 21. History is on the Lightning’s side; the teams have met twice before in the playoffs, once in 2021 and once in 2022. The Bolts came out on top both times, winning 4-2 in the first series, before the subsequent year’s 4-0 demolition job.

The NHL playoffs are decided through best-of-seven series, meaning four wins is enough to move on. There are four rounds in total, with the last being the Stanley Cup Final.

Against the Panthers, puck drop for Game 1 is on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m., and the Game 2 matchup takes place Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.. The Bolts will then come back to Amalie Arena for games on Thursday, April 25 + Saturday, April 27.

Here’s the full schedule:

  • Game 1: Sunday, April 21 at 12:30 p.m. in Sunrise, FL
  • Game 2: Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Sunrise, FL
  • Game 3: Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. in Tampa, FL
  • Game 4: Saturday, April 27 at 5 p.m. in Tampa, FL
  • Game 5 (if needed): Monday, April 29 in Sunrise, FL
  • Game 6 (if needed): Wednesday, May 1 in Tampa, FL
  • Game 7 (if needed): Saturday, May 4 in Sunrise, FL
Lightning goalie Vasilevskiy walks out of the locker room. The lighting is a rich blue color, and he is carrying his stick while fully padded up.

Good luck scoring when Vasy’s in the way.

Photo via the Tampa Bay Lightning

How can I join the fun?

To catch the game at home, make sure to head over to ESPN. But if you want to get out and about, there’s plenty of ways to get involved in the Tampa Bay area.

Our events page will keep you updated with Lightning-themed events and watch-alongs as the playoffs progress, with official watch parties taking place at Sparkman Wharf and Midtown Tampa. Games are also shown in Thunder Alley right outside Amalie. Pro tip: Arrive early if you want a good spot.

If you want to show some Bolts pride, here are a few ideas:

  • Show off your fandom to your neighbors with this garden flag.
  • You can even support the team while sat in traffic on I-275.
  • There’s no reason to leave your pet out of the fun — and this jersey means you don’t have to.
  • Jeans and a cute top? Oh, go on then.

Even though it’s only been a few years since our last sports title, by our Champa Bay standards, it feels like a lifetime. Here’s to another playoff run, TBAY.

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