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Tampa Bay Enters the Home Stretch

01/30/2023, 3:15pm EST
By Christian Adams

The Tampa Bay Juniors are in the home stretch of the 2022-23. Both teams have less than 10 games remaining and after a sweep of Columbia both teams are in better positions. Although no one will catch the Eels in first place the last three playoff spots in the division remain at large. However, the situation both Elite and Premier find themselves in could not be more different. 


Elite is in!

After a huge win over the Florida Eels on home ice on last Friday and a road sweep of the Columbia Infantry, Elite has clinched a spot in the 2023 postseason. Despite struggling at showcases this year Tampa Bay finds themselves well ahead of the third and fourth seeds. The Juniors are seven points ahead of the third place Atlanta Madhatters and nine points ahead of fourth place Palm Beach Typhoon. The Juniors will have a chance to extend their lead over palm Beach as they come to town for a two-game series this weekend. With Atlanta clinching this weekend only one playoff spot remains in Elite that will most likely be taken by the Typhoon.  

Although they have clinched a spot in the postseason, mathematically speaking all four seeds are still in play as the Eels have yet to clinch the division. However, Tampa Bay is firmly entrenched in second place. The team currently sits nine points behind the Eels. Given that all but one of the Eels’ remaining games involve the bottom three teams in the division, it is extremely unlikely that the Juniors will take the division crown from Florida.

That being said, it is possible for Tampa Bay to lose second place. Five of their remaining nine games are against Palm Beach or Atlanta. Although that is also very unlikely as the Juniors have four games at hand on Atlanta. Not to mention that any combination of 3 points gained for Tampa Bay or lost for Atlanta will ensure a finish higher than the Madhatters. Although Palm Beach has a game at hand on Tampa Bay, a sweep this weekend by the Juniors would almost lock a position higher than Palm Beach. In short, Tampa Bay controls their own destiny when it comes to seeding.


Likely Matchup

At this point there are two likely opponents that Tampa Bay would see in the first round. They are Palm Beach or Atlanta. Palm Beach has more room to work with. They currently have five games at hand on the Madhatters and are only two points back. Six of their remaining ten games are against the bottom two teams in the division with half of them being at home. However, their other four are against Tampa Bay and the Eels. Palm Beach is just one point from clinching their first ever postseason berth. So, where they finish will likely be determined by how they play after they clinch. 

Atlanta on the other hand will have to rely on some help to maintain the third seed. They have played the most games in the division and only have 5 games remaining, three of which are against Tampa Bay. Atlanta’s only other remaining games are against Columbia which are very winnable games. Their finish will likely rely on how Palm Beach does in their games against the top two and how they play against the juniors in the final series of the season. 


Premier in Playoff Mode

In a division as tough as the Florida Division, it is no surprise that there would be a close race at the end of the season. However, this year is shaping up to be the tightest one in years. Seeds 2 through 5 are separated by five points. Despite getting swept by the Eels, Tampa Bay’s sweep of the Infantry last weekend vaulted them back into third behind Atlanta and ahead of both the Jr. Blades and the Typhoon.

Premier is a race that will likely come down to the last day. The one sure thing is the Florida Eels. One thing is for sure, the Florida Eels have clinched the division and will head into the postseason as the number one seed. Where the elite playoff picture is pretty set, the premier bracket is an absolute crap shoot. Any team could be in a playoff spot one day and then out the next. The one thing that is certain is that if Tampa Bay wants to make the playoffs the need to win now. They have little to no room for error. 


Best Case Scenario

Given that all the teams fighting for the remaining playoff spots are so close, any one of the four teams could be the second team to advance to nationals. Although making the playoff is priority number one, there is one thing that Tampa Bay can do to put them in the best position to advance. That is… stay away from the number four seed. For the team that ends up in the four seed, it will be a date with the Florida Eels. Although anything is possible, it is unlikely that anybody will beat the Eels in a three-game series. So, for Tampa Bay, if they can capture the two or three seed, they will put themselves in a position to advance past the first round. Tampa Bay has a lot of work to do, but if they win their remaining games they should at the very least make the playoffs. 

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