The regular season is just about over. Each NHL team only has a game or two left to play, and then, it’ll be time for the playoffs.
Except, of course, for the 14 teams who won’t make it to the big dance. One of the Flyers, Bruins, or Red Wings is going to be let down this weekend, eliminated from contention right at the end of the season. The Flames, on the other hand, have known for some time they won’t be making the playoffs: and thus, attention has turned towards the bottom of the standings.
At the start of the week, we looked at where the Flames could end up. With just a game left for most now, though, the picture is much clearer.
There’s only one game on April 8, but it does have implications for the Flames. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres play at 5 p.m. MT: and it’s best if the Jackets win.
The Flames can only record a maximum of 77 points this season; the Sabres are already at 79. They’re uncatchable, so it doesn’t matter if they come away with points or not. The Flames are guaranteed to finish below them.
The Jackets, however? With two games left, they can finish with a maximum of 76 points. With the Flames currently sitting at 75, it’s possible, if they win out, that they can pass the Flames.
A Columbus loss to the Sabres means the Flames can finish no lower than 26th in the NHL. A Columbus win means they could still drop down to 27th.
Every single team is playing on the last Saturday of the regular season, so that’s when things are going to get decided. (There are two games still to be played on April 10, but they involve three teams that have clinched the playoffs and one still fighting for it, so they’re completely irrelevant to the bottom of the standings.)
The Flames’ victory over the Canucks ensured Calgary will not have a bottom-three finish this season. Vancouver could still tie the Flames in points, but the Flames have the tiebreaker with 32 ROW to the Canucks’ 26. Toronto and Edmonton, also below the Canucks in the standings, are uncatchable as well.
Meanwhile, the Flames cannot finish any higher than 25th in the standings. The 24th place team is the Arizona Coyotes who, with 78 points, cannot be caught.
So there are two teams to focus on: Columbus, if they beat Buffalo; and Winnipeg, who has picked up back-to-back victories over both the Ducks and the Sharks.
Columbus’ final game of the season is against the Chicago Blackhawks, so the odds of them passing the Flames probably aren’t that great.
Winnipeg, however, is a different story. They have one more point than the Flames, so a Flames loss to Minnesota would ensure a 27th or 26th place finish. If the Flames beat Minnesota, however, then they would need the Jets to beat the Kings in order to fall under them in the standings.
Should the Flames and Jets end up with the same number of points and the same number of ROWs – this would be accomplished with a Flames overtime loss, and a Jets regulation loss – then the tiebreaker is decided by goal differential. The Flames are at -30 on the season, while Winnipeg is at -25; an overtime loss would see the Flames at -31, so the Jets would have to get blown out to fall below the Flames in that case.
The Flames will finish as either the fourth, fifth, or sixth worst team in the NHL this season. Finishing as the fourth worst team would involve the Flames losing their regular season finale, and the Columbus Blue Jackets winning both of their games. Finishing as the sixth worst team, however, would entail the Flames winning their regular season finale, and the Jets losing theirs.
At absolute worst, the Flames can pick ninth overall. That would involve three teams above them winning the lottery, however, which doesn’t seem too likely.
# of lottery ball combos
27 – 95
26 – 85
25 – 75
24 – 65
23 – 60
Dropping 1 position isn’t the end of the world https://t.co/3Ra8ts4DmP
— Team Post Apex XXXII (@CLIB542) April 4, 2016
I would guess the Flames end up finishing in 26th place, or as the fifth worst team. And it sure would be nice if they did get a lottery win: and they should be in position to potentially pick one up, if not for first overall, then for second or third. Otherwise, a top-five pick still seems pretty likely – and would certainly help.