Flames’ sheer dominance over the Pacific Division why playoffs may be a reality

Here’s a handful of teams the Calgary Flames have won the season series over: the Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks. They’ve probably won the season series against the Los Angeles Kings, too, although that isn’t quite official yet.

It’s pretty obvious what these five teams have in common: in addition to being pretty well-handled by the Flames, they’re also all members of the Pacific Division.

The Anaheim Ducks are the only division opponent to win the season series against the Flames this season. And when you take into account the fact that two of their three wins came at the Honda Center – which we all know is cursed and needs to be burned down for the sake of a much-needed exorcism – does their victory actually count?

(Well, technically, yes, but they’re definitely cheating.)

With just three games to go, the Flames have so far accumulated 19 wins over their divisional opponents. That’s exactly one half of their 38 wins to date coming against teams they spend roughly 35% of their season playing.

Divisional match ups have been absolutely crucial as the Flames make their way towards a hopeful playoff spot.

Best against their own

While the Flames’ overall record is pretty decent, it’s definitely their work against the Pacific Division that has them where they currently are. Consider:

Division Record Points percentage
Pacific 19-6-1 .75%
Central 6-6-1 .50%
Atlantic 8-5-3 .59%
Metropolitan 5-9-0 .36%

When the Pacific was once considered the toughest division, that hasn’t seemed to be the case this year. Rather, instead of flat out elite teams – usually California-based – only one has pulled away. The Central, meanwhile, has a couple of teams with insane records at the top, much like the Pacific of old; while the Eastern Conference seems to be clearly cut into good and bad teams now, with very little in between. It’s the Pacific and Atlantic with the highest concentration of hardcore tankers.

The changes the Pacific has undergone between last season and this (including Arizona completely tanking, Los Angeles doing their whole inferior regular season thing, San Jose completely imploding after losing to Los Angeles in the playoffs last year, and Vancouver embracing the… retool, I guess) have ended up being really good for Calgary, putting them in a perfect storm of internal progression as externally, the division began to crumble. After all, last season the Flames had an 11-15-3 record against their own division for a .43 points percentage.

Look how far they’ve come.

Flames vs Ducks

The Ducks are the only team that has truly gotten the better of the Flames this season. With all five matchups played, Anaheim succeeded in coming away with seven points, while the Flames only managed four. Calgary was outscored 21-18, too.

Despite Anaheim’s undisputed record at the top of the division, the Flames have actually performed pretty well against them, averaging a total corsi for of 48.01% (better than their overall 46.98%). Anaheim had a couple of blowouts go in their favour, while Calgary one; the remaining two games were close, one-goal affairs, including necessitating a shootout.

Really, if it wasn’t for the Honda Center being cursed, the Flames may very well have had a winning record against the Ducks this season. Alas, Anaheim is the lone Pacific team with the ability to actually vanquish them.

Flames vs Coyotes

The Coyotes are very much tanking, which leaves them susceptible to getting destroyed. The Flames have been more than happy to oblige them, taking all of eight possible points available thus far, and leaving none for Arizona. They’ve outscored them 17-6, leaving absolutely no doubt as to who the better team has been. They’ve even allowed the Flames to take a bit of time off, as their average corsi for of 46.78% would suggest, defending rather than seeking to add to their offence.

The Flames have already clearly taken this season series, but it’s not over yet. There’s still a game left to be played between these two, and with Arizona particularly not needing points, it could end up going very, very well for Calgary.

Flames vs Oilers

The Oilers know nothing but the tank. Collapse and embarrassment are all they have. So it comes as no surprise that the Flames have taken an eight possible points from them, leaving the Oilers with one somehow, for some reason. The dominance hasn’t been as pure, but the 17-8 goals in favour of the Flames is still pretty good, as is the 48.91% corsi for; not as dominant as you’d expect, but better than the Flames’ overall average this season.

With a Battle of Alberta still to go, well… the Oilers are really in the thick of the McDavid race, but Edmonton has also been grossly embarrassed by Calgary in particular this year, so they may not want to get swept. They also may not have a choice in the matter.

Flames vs Kings

The Flames’ success against the Kings this season has been, for lack of a better word, odd. The games have been very, very close, as even though Los Angeles only has one win against Calgary, they’ve still picked up four points against them to the Flames’ six. The scoring has been tight, too, with the edge just going to the Flames, 11-10. There’s only one dominating aspect of this season series, and it handily goes to the Kings, as the Flames’ corsi for against them has only been a disastrous 39.07%. With overtime essentially being a coin flip, the Flames have gotten very lucky against the defending Cup champions.

Calgary hasn’t technically won the season series just yet, but it’s probably theirs. If the one remaining game – the Flames’ penultimate regular season contest, so it’s shaping up to be absolutely huge – simply goes to overtime, the season series is the Flames’. Even if the Kings win it in regulation, for it to be a meaningful game, the Flames are going to have to keep winning, so their ROWs and goal differential may still be better than the Kings’ at year’s end, giving them the tiebreaker. Like most things between these two teams this season, though, it’ll probably be close.

Flames vs Sharks

The Sharks have not had a great year, and are looking about set to miss the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. They definitely have their performances against the Flames to thank for that in part, as San Jose was only able to come away with three points from them, while Calgary collected eight, outscoring the Sharks 15-8 all the way. While the Flames aren’t a great possession team, they’ve had some of their better games against the Sharks as well, ultimately posting a 47.19% corsi for: the third Pacific team they’re better-than-their-average against.

The Flames taking so many points from the Sharks has been a massive part of where the two teams find themselves this season. It isn’t the entire story, but man, Calgary has really come out on the much better end, and look to trend up while San Jose likely trends down.

Flames vs Canucks

The Canucks have had the Flames’ number in recent history, but this season, the switch was finally flipped. It was close, what with both teams winning two games apiece, but the Flames came away with the edge thanks to one of their losses being in overtime. Their five points taken against Vancouver compared to the Canucks’ four just barely gave them the season series, even as the Canucks outscored them 9-8. And while the Canucks aren’t particularly great themselves this season, the Flames’ 44.31% corsi for against them isn’t good, in general and relative to their play against the rest of the Pacific, and overall.

Right now this is the playoff matchup. It doesn’t really favour the Flames, though all the games played have been close (and really, the Flames were just one own-goal away from taking one of the Canucks’ victories and being firmly above them in the standings). When these two collide someone seems to go the Final, anyway; while that isn’t probable for either team this year, it could definitely be a really heated, intense series. … Maybe one that will require the services of an exhausted Joni Ortio, he who really initiated the turnaround against this team.

The rest of the season

So the Flames still have three games left against their division: one against the Coyotes, one against the Oilers, and one against the Kings. Two of those should, in theory, be an easy four points, especially against teams who really don’t want them. The game against the Kings will be a whole other story, as it could end up being the decider of a single playoff spot, and honestly, the matchup favours Los Angeles.

This playoff battle has ended up being a fight between four Pacific teams for two or three spots, depending on whether the Central decides to be totally dominating, or just partially. The Sharks do look like they’ve fallen somewhat out of the race, while Los Angeles is right behind the Flames and Canucks, who are keeping neck-in-neck with one another.

It’s been a tight battle, and it’s going to be a tight finish. One last benefit to the Flames’ success against their own division, though, other than getting them where they currently are?

If the battle stays this close, or pulls even closer, the Flames have the tiebreaker. Against pretty much everyone they’re directly competing against, Vancouver ROWs aside.

Good job, team.

  • It’s stressful, but man this playoff race is exciting. I know some other teams have a chance of faltering and we may still get a wildcard sport, but its thrilling to watch this Flames vs. Kings battle (and Canucks, for that matter) for a divisional spot in the playoffs. I’d forgotten that March hockey could be so fun!

    Also glad to see a more invigorating rivalry between the Flames and Canucks. Makes for much better hockey when these two teams are giving their all and there’s a more even matchup!

  • Ari Yanover

    Actually, Ari, it is official they’ve won the season series against the Kings. The Kings could only tie in points (Kings are 1-1-2 in the series, Flames are 3-1-0) That means the Flames have 6 points. Even if LA wins the last meeting, they would only have 6 points from the series with one less win.

    • Ari Yanover

      Oh – is that how it works? I’ve been going off NHL’s tie-breaking procedures, which defaults to this if two clubs have the same number of ROWS:

      The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs.

      After that it goes to goal differential. But if it really is based straight on wins then that’s even better news!

      • Ari Yanover

        Goal diff. isn’t for the season series, it’s for the season as a whole, every game. The Flames have the best goal diff. in the pacific, with a +11 difference between them and the Kings. Either way, the Flames have it. That being said, my first statement was incorrect in terms of the standings, but I really do think in a series, the team with more wins should be considered the victor regardless.

  • RedMan

    appreciate the breakdown and perspective.

    It’s hard to imagine a scenario where San Jose gets enough points to get into the playoffs… especially given the weird exchange between Joe and the Gm.
    It’s the Flames against the Jets and Kings – three teams for the last 2 spots (unless Vancouver implodes)

    • Ari Yanover

      Should also mention the Canucks still have two games to go against the Kings, and the Kings are 3-0 against them so far this season, outscoring them 12-3.

      So Vancouver is definitely vulnerable.

  • RKD

    Agreed, at one time we were 11-3 against the Pacific Division which has probably gone up in recent weeks. At the start of the season everyone was saying the Flames were in a really tough division but hockey is cyclical. The Sharks have taken a step back, this is the first time the Sharks are fighting for a playoff spot in a decade. The Kings are not that great in the regular season, they just kept hanging around and usually get hot at the right time. The parity in the league is shifting closer to the top now, a lot of teams at the top are closer together and the other teams below them are much closer than they have been in years.

  • Ari Yanover

    Regardless of the final outcome the experience gained by the younger prospects and players on the Flames during the final 20 games of this season will be invaluable going forward as they progress their rebuild into next year.

    Lessons learned from the unsuccessful Oiler rebuild is that regardless of talent level and draft position you need to install a winning culture to progress to the next level. The Flames are doing that and the bonus is a realistic shot at the playoffs which adds another dimension of benefit…


  • SoCalFlamesFan

    Thank you Arii for coming to this site. Your analysis is a breath of fresh air. A came for the stats a couple years ago and am staying because of your articles.

  • ssamze

    Nice article Arii!

    Flames were 11-15-3 against the Pac Division last year. Any thoughts on why the team has improved against the Pac?

    Burkie kept saying the Flames were not big enough to play against the Pac Division. Has the addition of Bollig and Engelland actually helped them compete against the Pac Divison??

    Just a thought, I know most readers of FN would disagree with this…..

  • MonsterPod

    Who is this Arii? Dude’s a beauty.

    Great blend of info and personality. Keep up the great work.

    Reality check: this team is boggling my mind.

    Monahan is 20 and should not be our first line center already. But he is, and he’s rocking it.

    Johnny is a rookie and should not be our first line LW, but he’s putting up points better than Eberle.

    Hudler is scoring at a better ppg pace than Stamkos and Giroux. Whaaa?

    Brodie is possessed.

    Whatever happens, I am falling in love with this team. And while it sucks we will not get a great pick in this stacked draft, Bennett is looking like an absolute stud. I worry because he seems to be injury prone, but his skill set and drive are crazy good.