It is finally here – the Calgary Flames begin their playoff journey today.
But will that journey be long or short? Will they get past the hated Vancouver Canucks and their fail whale jerseys? We asked the best bunch of people we know, the FlamesNation crew.
|Ryan Pike||@RyanNPike||FN managing editor; The Hockey Writers senior writer|
|Kent Wilson||@Kent_Wilson||FN founder, contributor, overlord emeritus; analytics pioneer|
|Pat Steinberg||@Fan960Steinberg||FN columnist; Flames game-day host on Sportsnet 960 The Fan|
|Thomas Drance||@ThomasDrance||Nations overlord; Sportsnet Canucks columnist|
|Ryan Lambert||@twolinepass||FN columnist; Yahoo Sports columnist; college hockey lover|
|Ari||@thirtyfourseven||FN contributor; Matchsticks and Gasoline editor|
|Book of Loob||@bookofloob||FN contributor, living legend; The Canafornians contributor|
|Byron Bader||@baderater||FN contributor|
|Mike Cadarette||@cadarette_M||FN contributor; AHL/prospects lover; BC resident|
|Christian Roatis||@CRoatis||FN contributor; draft lover|
|Taylor McKee||@TaylorMcKee_||FN contributor; BC resident|
RYAN P.: Flames in 7. Calgary is made of pure puck luck and grit at this point. Eventually, they will run out of human bodies to play their system effectively, or run into a team where playing that system doesn’t help them. This will be close, but I think they eke one out.
KENT: Vancouver in 7. The Flames are the worst 5-on-5 team to
make the playoffs in the modern era, at least in terms of driving
possession. It’s a substantial handicap, particularly in the absence of
Mark Giordano, their best skater at even strength. Flames made hay on
special teams and in extra time during the regular season, but there’s
no 4on4 OT in the playoffs and penalties tend to be harder to come by.
PAT: Calgary in 6. This season has been insane to begin with, so we might as well see
the Flames win a round to top it all off. Calgary is not a good
possession team and they relied on some crazy percentages all year long.
But the good news is, Vancouver isn’t THAT much
better than they are. If there’s one team the Flames can beat it’s the
Canucks, and I think they’ll have just enough magic left to do just
THOMAS: These teams are weird and this series is going to be close, tough and
entertaining. I don’t have a good feel for the Flames, and haven’t all
year. In fact I picked of these teams to miss the playoffs at the start
of the season, so take my predictions with all of the salt. Vancouver’s
got the special teams advantage and is the better 5-on-5 team, but the
Flames’ speed and team-level discipline will give them fits. I’ll take
the Canucks to win, narrowly, in seven games.
RYAN L: Canucks in 5 or maybe 6. The Flames aren’t good. The Canucks aren’t good. But the Flames are
worse. Yeah they could continue to get the bounces but all those OT wins
— there were 13 of them! out of 45! — won’t matter when they have to
keep playing 5-on-5 hockey the whole game even if it goes to overtime.
Can they win? Sure. Again, the Canucks are bad. But the odds aren’t on
ARI: Neither the Flames nor Canucks are particularly great teams this year,
which is why it’s awesome they matched up against one another: not only
for the intense rivalry, but the fact that neither team should dominate
the series means it’ll really ramp up another notch. It also gives both
teams a fair chance. Calgary’s definitely the worse possession team, but
it’s not like Vancouver is any good, either. Both have a few top end
players, but are kind of thin on defence, albeit with multiple good
goaltending options. The Flames are younger, and have been battling from
behind all season long, while the Canucks have more playoff experience
and have been there recently. The Flames are the ones
with a flair for the dramatic, though. Calgary takes a tight
overtime-going seven-game series by the skin of their teeth.
BOOK O’ LOOB: I’ve been doubting Calgary all season, and they’ve made me look like an idiot for it, which is great. So I’m going to keep in doing it and hoping for the same result. So I’m saying Canucks in 6. Boy that Luca Sbisa seems like a real powerhouse, doesn’t he?
BYRON: This is probably the toughest series to call of the 8 given how close
the teams are. The season series is a wash. They have nearly identical
goal differentials, goals for and goals against. They have essentially
the same amount of offense (50+ point getters, 30+ point getters, 20+
goal scorers, 10+ goal corers, etc.), two goalies each that aren’t game
breakers but can get the job done. Vancouver maybe has a slight edge on
the back end but Calgary’s back end scores more. Vancouver also has no
real key injuries while the Flames are missing one of their best players
and best penalty killers if Bouma doesn’t return. Vancouver also has
home-ice advantage. So I should probably pick Vancouver but I just
can’t. I have a good feeling about it and I think Calgary wins in
overtime in six games.
MIKE: This is going to be an extremely fun series to watch. Anyone who has
followed the Flames all season knows there’s something special about
this group in terms of cohesion, sacrifice and discipline. The Flames’
5-on-5 play is concerning, especially if they get hemmed into their own
zone against the Sedins for an extended period of time. We learned a
long time ago not to count the Flames out of anything though (see: March 7
vs. the Senators). On the other hand, Eddie Lack is REALLY good against
the Flames. He has a 3-1 starting record and a 0.951 SV% versus
Calgary. Yikes. I think that’s where the Flames ridiculous shooting
percentage might come into play. We’ll see. Flames in 7 games.
the result, this promises to be an unbearably exciting series. The two
teams match up well and outside of maybe the blueline, their lineups are
a wash. The Flames have been good on the road which leads me to believe
they can steal a game, or multiple, in Vancouver if need be. I usually
end up jinxing these thing, but I reluctantly say Flames in 6.
BELOCH: Flames in 6. I’m going with 6 games because, statistically, that’s the
most likely number of games needed to decide a close series. I probably
chose the Flames at least partly because I’m a homer, but there’s some
logic behind this choice too. Both the Canucks and Flames have one top
scoring line. The Sedins are a known quantity, but Monahan and Gaudreau
are better now than data from the entire season indicates, or
even the last time they played against the Canucks (in February). They
have the potential to be dominant in this series. The Canucks do have
Vrbata as well, but they don’t get nearly as much offence from their
blueline as the Flames do, even without Giordano. The edge in
goal-tending belongs to the Flames. Lack is unusually weak against
shots from the slot, which is precisely where the Monahan line likes to
score from. Hiller tends to let easy goals in early in games, but is
less likely to be blown out than Lack. This is key, because the backup
situation for both teams is shaky. Miller, Ramo, and Ortio have all
been injured recently and are not at peak form. Finally, the Flames
best players have an edge in endurance and conditioning, both due to
youth and training at a higher altitude. Overtime without the
possibility of salvation-by-shoot-out will not be kind to the Canucks in
have doubted this team all year and they have made me look like a fool
so what the hell, Flames in six. The Flames earn a split of games 1 and
2 in Vancouver and the pressure overcomes Ronalds Kenins and Co. and
the Flames hold serve at home. I’ve
given up trying to think of rationales for the Flames success this year
so now I am going to assume that the effigy of Andrew Cassels I offered
as a sacrifice to the hockey gods is paying off.