Playoff season is inching closer for most of the players in the Flames organization. That means it’s an exciting time and there’s jockeying for spots going on.
Playoffs in the KHL are already underway. NCAA tournaments begin in a couple weeks and playoffs throughout the Canadian Hockey League kick off around that time, as well.
The Flames are off until Sunday, when they face the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames sit just under .500 at 7-8-4 while the Canucks are 10-5-4 and are, to be blunt, a more complete team than Calgary. The Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, then fly to Calgary to play the Flames on Sunday.
AHL & ECHL
The Heat sit in a playoff spot, just barely, and every team behind them has games in hand. They host the Houston Aeros on Friday and Saturday. The farm team of the Minnesota Wild, Houston is a mere three points ahead of Abbotsford.
The Utah Grizzlies host the Idaho Steelheads on Friday and Saturday. Despite being a sub-.500 team, the Grizzlies are likely headed to the ECHL’s playoffs, as eight of the Western Conference’s nine teams make the post-season. The ECHL has a weird playoff system and the Grizzlies just lost Mitch Wahl, their top scorer.
A bunch of teams have already clinched playoff spots.
Portland and Edmonton are easily two of the best teams in the WHL and will likely both be the top seeds in their respective conferences. They both also play the Everett Silvertips this weekend. Laurent Brossoit remains one of the best goalies in the Dub, and Tyler Wotherspoon has had a very good year.
The Saskatoon Blades have been extremely good since Michael Ferland arrived at the trade deadline. They’ve won 16 straight as of this writing, and clinched a playoff berth with a shootout thriller in Calgary against the Hitmen. They’ll play Brandon and Moose Jaw this weekend, and are trying to catch the Hitmen and clinch home ice advantage in the second round.
The Quebec Remparts have clinched a spot over in the QMJHL, but they’ll be in-tough in the playoffs and Ryan Culkin will have to be clutch. The Remparts host Drummondville and Moncton this weekend and they’ll try to firm up a strong seed.
The Red Deer Rebels haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet. They’re fifth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and can creep into home-ice advantage with a few wins here and there. They play Kootenay and Swift Current this weekend. Flames prospect Turner Elson is their captain.
Swift Current (and Coda Gordon) are seventh in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and haven’t clinched yet, but are in a good spot. As long as they don’t lose a lot, they’ll stick around. They visit the Hitmen on Friday and Red Deer on Saturday, so they have their work cut out for them a bit.
The Vancouver Giants will not make the playoffs. They are 13 points out of a spot and Brett Kulak may be their best player. They play three games in three nights – against Lethbridge, Kamloops and Everett – and are merely playing for the joy of playing at this point.
Patrick Sieloff has an injured groin and probably won’t play at all this weekend for Windsor. There’s a chance that the Spitfires will shut him down for the season, as their playoff prospects aren’t all that hot and Sieloff’s long-term health is a concern for everyone involved.
Boston College and Providence College are part of a four-way tie for top spot in Hockey East. Johnny Gaudreau has cooled off for BC, but Bill Arnold has been strong lately and Jon Gillies is one of the best goaltenders in college hockey lately. They’ll play each other on Friday and Saturday with top spot in the conference on the line.
John Ramage and the Wisconsin Badgers are tied for sixth-place in the WCHA. They play Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and Saturday and could creep up a bit in the playoff seedings. Ramage has been pretty clutch offensively for the Badgers lately.
Notre Dame is in third place in the CCHA. They’re on their way to the playoffs, because everyone makes the playoffs in their conference. Nick Larson, a Flames 2008 draft pick, has been a player Notre Dame. He’s unlikely to be signed, and will play Bowling Green this weekend.
Michigan State is in last place in the CCHA and will make the playoffs because everyone does. They’ll play Western Michigan and will probably just try not to get anybody injured before the playoffs. Freshman Matt Deblouw has been good this year for the Sparatans.
With their first-round playoff series tied at two games apiece, Avangard Omsk plays Sibir Chelyabinsk in Game 5 on Friday and Game 6 on Saturday. Karri Ramo has been alternately excellent (in wins) and not amazing (in losses).
In the second-last weekend of the season, HIFK Helsinki plays once – on Saturday against Lukko. HIFK is firmly in one of the wild-card playoff spots in SM-Liiga. Markus Granlund and Joni Ortio have both played well of late for HIFK.