Game No. 74: California dreamin’

This is the first day of the rest of your season.

That win over Colorado sure was nice, and convincing, and all that fun stuff, but still, it was only over Colorado, which just won literally is second game in the last 22.

So not much to hang your hat on there.

Now the true remainder of the season begins, and maybe two of these next nine games the rest of the way is going to be described as "easy." This is not one of them.

The Anaheim Ducks are a team that, like most in the Western Conference, is fighting for its playoff life, and has the added scratching-and-clawing incentive of not currently having one (though neither do the Flames). I’ve always believed that teams on the edge of qualifying for a playoff spot are more dangerous than those on the edge of losing one.

For evidence, look no deeper than tonight’s matchup. Calgary went from a semi-comfortable fifth place in the West to out of the playoffs in the space of about a week not too long ago, and the concern generated by that is mitigated only somewhat by the Avalanche game. The Ducks, meanwhile, have been out of the playoffs for most of the season, but rampaged back into the conversation having won seven of their last nine.

More troubling, Anaheim has been winning a lot of games in overtime. Four of their last 10 games have been of the three-point variety, ceding at least a loser point to Minnesota, Detroit, Dallas and Los Angeles. A quick check of the standings shows three of those four teams are within five points of the Flames.

So while both Calgary and Anaheim are deadlocked at 83 points apiece, one point out, the best tactic possible would be to win in regulation.

Winning is winning and all that, I understand, but you don’t want a point given up here tonight to come back and haunt you in April. Calgary, while struggling of late, has at least limited the three-point affairs, while getting no help on that front from the rest of the West. But ultimately you can only control the games in which you play.

And here’s one last thing about the Ducks I thought was interesting. For all the talk about how their defense has been a bit iffy this year, they’ve allowed two or fewer goals in six of their last nine, and three of their last four. They’ve allowed just one each in their last two. That’s not a team with a battered forward group like the Flames’ necessarily needs right now.