In the thick of the tank: Looking at what’s left

The Flames have just three home games left. This follows their recently concluded six-game home stand, in which they collected eight of a possible 10 points. Preceding that was an unexpected win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and following it was a somewhat expected win over the Montreal Canadiens, giving the Flames 12 points of a possible 16 over half the games of March.

That recent win streak wasn’t necessarily unexpected, though. Outside of the St. Louis Blues – which really came out of nowhere – a lot of the Flames’ recent results were predictable, even if on just a gut level. 

The last major home stand is over now, though, and this season, the Flames have had a worse record on the road. Let’s take another look at just what’s left – and how many points we can maybe expect the Flames to finish with.

End of March

The Flames have four games left in March:

vs Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks are in a tailspin right now. Through 10 games this March they’ve only won three times. They’re still in contention for the Central Division title, but both the Blues and Stars have pulled ahead of them to the tunes of four and six points, respectively. Especially worse yet for Chicago, they’ve played those teams three times this month – their direct competition – and lost to the Blues in a shootout once, while getting blown out by the Stars twice. Also, the Predators, in the first wild card spot in the West, are just two points back.

So this is a vulnerable team. That said, it’s still a team significantly better than the Flames, and with a hell of a lot more to play for. Regardless of their recent struggles, I’d still expect this to be a loss for the Flames.

at Arizona Coyotes: Last season, the Flames swept the Coyotes. This season, the Coyotes are up 4-0 on the Flames. It’s not that the Coyotes are a particularly good team, but they’ve been winning their fair share this month. 

And it does feel like they’ll complete the sweep, just for the sake of it. That’s pure gut feeling, because this definitely remains a winnable game for the Flames – but after watching how things have gone this season, I’m not expecting them to pull this one out.

at Anaheim Ducks: It’s a game in Anaheim. Even when the Ducks weren’t have the best start to their season, when the Flames came to visit they still kicked their asses. And now the Ducks are 6-4-2 this month, albeit they seem to be floundering more lately, and still in contention for the division title. 

I… really do not think the Flames are going to pull this one out, but it’d be a hell of a story.

at Los Angeles Kings: Well, it’s the second of a back-to-back on the road, even if there’s pretty much no travel involved. The Kings have clinched a playoff spot, but they’re still fighting to clinch the division – and even top spot in the Western Conference is in striking distance for them. They followed up a four-game winning streak with a three-game losing one, though, so who knows what’s going on there?

Still, we’re talking about a much better team that’s going to have that much more rest than the Flames when they face off against one another.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Flames didn’t win another game this month.

April

The Flames then finish off their season with four games in April:

at Edmonton Oilers: This one is a total toss-up. The Flames and Oilers are roughly on each other’s levels at this point. The Flames have the advantage when it comes to defence, the Oilers have more notable elite talent up front. The Flames are currently winning the season series 2-1-1: an incredibly slim margin.

More than any other remaining games, though, this one is going to especially be about pride. I genuinely have no idea which way it goes.

vs Los Angeles Kings: If the Kings still have something to play for at this point, I’d expect them to very much take care of the Flames. If they’re locked into a playoff slot and are just trying to avoid getting injured… I still see them winning, honestly. They’re a very good, very well-coached team.

vs Vancouver Canucks: Outside of the season opener, the Flames have tossed the Canucks around this season. Throw in the fact it’s their final home game of the season, and they probably want to go out on a high note, and I’d say the Flames take this one.

at Minnesota Wild: Do the Wild still have anything left to play for? If they do, I think they take this one. If they don’t, because they’re out of the playoffs, it may very well be anyone’s game, though I’m still inclined to take them; if they don’t, because they’re locked into place and just trying to avoid getting injured – think the Flames’ end to the season last year – then Calgary could take it.

So how many points do the Flames pick up in the final eight games of the year? Maybe eight if you’re being really optimistic, but the answer is probably closer to four, which would see them end the year with a grand total of 72 points.

Good for the tank, but that’s pretty nasty when it comes to pride.

What about everyone else?

Okay, so say the Flames finish with 72 points. That only really means something if the other teams hovering around the bottom of the standings are able to pick up more than that.

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedules for the bottom 10 teams in the league – because they’re only 11 points up, at best, from the very bottom, and because 10 is a nice number. Also, this way we get to include all the Canadian-based teams! Fun.

Team Next Game 2 Games 3 Games 4 Games 5 Games 6 Games 7 Games 8 Games 9 Games
Toronto vs BOS @ TBL @ FLA @ BUF vs DET vs FLA vs CBJ @ PHI @ NJD
Edmonton @ LAK vs ANA vs CGY vs VAN @ VAN
Vancouver @ STL vs CHI vs SJS @ SJS @ ANA vs LAK @ EDM @ CGY vs EDM
Columbus @ NSH @ WSH @ NYI @ CAR vs NYR @ TOR @ BUF vs CHI
Calgary vs CHI @ ARI @ ANA @ LAK @ EDM vs LAK vs VAN @ MIN
Winnipeg @ BUF @ PHI vs OTT vs CHI vs MIN @ ANA @ SJS @ LAK
Buffalo vs WPG @ DET @ PIT vs TOR @ NYR @ NJD vs CBJ @ NYI
Arizona vs PHI vs CGY @ DAL vs WSH @ STL @ CHI @NSH @ SJS
Montreal vs NYR vs DET @ TBL @ FLA vs FLA @ CAR vs TBL
Ottawa vs ANA @ WPG @ MIN @ PHI vs PIT vs FLA @ BOS

Whatever your thoughts may be on actively cheering for the tank, there’s no harm that can come in cheering for the teams around the Flames in the standings to win. (Well, there’s no harm in whichever way anyone decides to cheer to begin with – fans have zero actual impact on a game’s outcome – but you know what I mean.)

Bolded are the games in which bottom 10 teams are facing off against one another, otherwise known as games in which overtime would be great. It looks like most of these teams are playing playoff-bound squadrons, though, some final stretches in western Canada aside. They’re games most of these teams should be losing.

But anything can happen. Just look at last night’s games in the NHL: the Devils shut out the Penguins, the Leafs overcame the Ducks, the Canucks realized they were actually allowed to score goals after getting shut out three games straight, the Jets beat the Kings, and the Coyotes beat the Stars.

It’s anyone’s game. Both in securing playoff seeds, and in the race to the bottom. Three teams – the Blue Jackets, Flames, and Jets – are all tied with 68 points each, which is only three points up from last place in the NHL. There’s not much season left – and at the same time, there is.

The Leafs are currently on a three-game win streak and have picked up points in seven of their last nine games. The Oilers are actually above .500 this month. The Jets have points in five of their last seven, the Sabres points in four of their last five. Bad teams are still accomplishing stuff, except for Vancouver and Columbus apparently.

Hopefully there’s still a lot of spoiling to go around in the final weeks of the season. It’s not a problem if the Flames still find ways to win – but it’d be even nicer if their peers did the same.

  • RKD

    Yeah, a few games we can definitely lose. I am counting losses against Chicago, Anaheim, and LA twice. Not sure about Arizona, sadly they will probably beat the Oiler and Canucks and get points. The Oilers got an accelerated schedule, they’ve reached 77 games played already by Mar. 25th. Seems a bit odd.

  • Stu Cazz

    It’s obvious the Oilers will be dead last and have the best chance at 1st overall….unbelievable and the league should have prohibited this from happening….poor marketing for a league to allow this to happen!

      • Stu Cazz

        Even if they don’t get Matthews they are surely going to land one of the Finns….they are in a win win situation and being rewarded for continuous pathetic performance…and the league tolerates it!!

        • FireScorpion

          It’s a societal issue. Failure is accepted and rewarded more than ever in all levels of life. Usually at the expense of others as it is in the NHL. It’s created a horrid weak planet.

          Oh how I long for a return to survival of the fittest, weed some of the dregs out of the equation. And people wonder why the Western World is heading into a free fall

  • FireScorpion

    If the Oilers win the 5th top pick in 7 years that will cement the NHL as a bush league compared to the major leagues of Soccer, Football Baseball and Basketball.
    It’s no wonder hockey is so low on the totem pole

    • madjam

      I am not a fan of the lottery to get first pick or otherwise . I am an Oiler fan but not a lottery fan . They should go back to old way of last gets first . The lottery just makes more teams try to tank . I believe twice now Oilers have chosen first overall due entirely to the lottery . I hope they (Oilers) win it again if they do not finish last , and then maybe the league will go back and abandon the lottery and so many teams tanking at end of season . I see the Oilers winning their last 3 games against Flames and Canucks and thus will not finish last .

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Not sure what everyone is freaking out about? Unless there is a clear cut number 1 like Crosby or McDavid there usually isn’t a lot of difference between the top pick and number 2 or 3.

    • Backburner

      C’mon Train, don’t act like Oilers fans haven’t done there homework on the top draft picks this year.

      After Matthews there is a huge drop off:

      1. Matthews (clear #1)

      2. Puljujarivi, Laine, Nylander

      3. Tkachuk, Dubois, Chychrun

      I agree that any pick in the top 7 or 8 will be a good one, but don’t act like Matthews is not a big deal.. he’s projected to be better than Eichel.

  • freethe flames

    The issue is what should the Flames do with the last 8 games. With the Heat all but eliminated it’s time recall two of the following: Grant, Agostino, Shore, Poirier or Shinkaruk and sit Bollig and Stajan. Hamilton could stay as well.

    Time to realize that the Ferland on the top line is over. He needs to either be given a chance with Bennett or be moved back to 3rd or 4th line and be reminded what he does well.

    I would like to see Ortio play most of the games but I have no problem if the other 2 play; it increases the lottery chances when Hiller plays.

    Give a line up that cares and some prospects to watch.

    Johnny/Monny/Poirier(yes he had a bad season)

    Grant/Bennett/Shore(Hamilton)

    Ferland/Backs/Frolik

    Bouma/Jooris/Colborne

    Hathaway as 13.