How Can The Flames Make The Playoffs?

Last night in Boston, the Calgary Flames hit two milestones.

First, they earned their 35th win of the season, matching last season’s total. They also hit 74 points, reaching the range that basically everyone at FlamesNation’s season preview panel thought they’d hit.

Not only that, they kept themselves firmly in the playoff hunt. The team’s success – thus far – without Mark Giordano leads one to wonder – How can the Flames make the playoffs?

The answer itself is rather simple: 10 more wins. Sports Club Stats gives Calgary a 75% chance of a playoff berth if they hit 94 points (and 88% at 95 points), so that’s the goal.

But how can they eke out 10 more wins? Here’s a road-map.

STAY DISCIPLINED

Without Mark Giordano, Calgary has been a, um, “not great,” team five on five. Heck, with him, they were one of the league’s worst teams…

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The Boston game is pretty emblematic of this season and likely the post-Giordano era; they got wildly out-shot at even-strength and had to rely on special teams to win. The team has been one of the league’s worst clubs at driving the play at even-strength all season, even with Norris contender Mark Giordano, and the expectation is they’ll be even worse without him.

That means taking few penalties will be crucial.

GRAND THEFT GOALIE

Calgary will be out-shot in the majority of the games from here on out. That means that the team’s dynamic duo of netminders – Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller – will have to steal games. Many games. As many as they can.

The road trip has been a good start, with Ramo being Calgary’s best player pretty consistently through five games. This trend will need to be continue for the Flames to have a chance.

RIDING THE PDO PONY

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The Flames have been one of the leaders in the NHL this season in PDO, the combined fancy stat that smooshes together shooting percentage and save percentage. This is largely a reflection that outside of that ugly dip that represents Calgary’s long mid-season losing streak, the team has had the benefit of hot goalies when their shooting went cold and hot shooting when their goaltending went cold.

Given that the other team has the puck more often and out-shoots them frequently, this will need to continue.

GOTTA STAY OPPORTUNISTIC

Finally, the Calgary Flames have had the benefit of getting key goals at key moments from key people, sometimes unlikely people. I mean, nobody thought David Schlemko would have scored that shootout goal this season, but that goal perfectly captured the spirit of this season – straight down to the shocked, aghast reaction of the Sportsnet 960 radio broadcast team.

Much like the miracle 2004 Stanley Cup run, this team has gotten contributions from basically everybody. (And before we get into comparisons, the 2004 team out-shot their opponents a lot.) The contributions from everybody and anybody will need to continue. The Flames have been good at burying their chances this season. They haven’t gotten many, and their shooting percentage (8.6%, fifth in the NHL) is a reflection that they’ve buried what they’ve been given at even-strength.

This will need to continue, and they really also have to bury their chances on the power-play. They got two goals with the extra man last night and it made all the difference in the world.

SO…THEY’VE GOT A CHANCE?

Yes. But a lot of things need to go just right for them to make it.

  • They can’t take many penalties.
  • The power-play has to stay hot.
  • Their goalies have been stand on their heads.
  • Their shooters cannot go cold.

So yeah, it could happen, I guess. It’s not likely, but really, nothing that’s happened over the last 64 games has been all that likely either. Why should the last 18 games be any different?