The Calgary Flames vs. the Pacific Division

Divisional wins have always been important under the NHL, but ever since the new playoff format, they’ve been even moreso.

It doesn’t matter how bad you are: as long as you’re a top three team in your division, you’re in the playoffs. So sure, winning in general is important. But winning in regulation against divisional opponents creates a four-point swing, which is even more crucial.

In 2014-15, the Flames kicked ass against the rest of the Pacific, and it helped them find their way to the top three (particularly by sweeping the Coyotes and Oilers). In 2015-16, they did not do as well, and in fact the 10 points they left on the board against those two teams would have been enough to put them in the playoffs.

So winning is important, but winning against your own division, even more so. Let’s take a look at this season’s edition of the Flames versus the Pacific, currently in progress.

The Flames are facing two opponents from the east, and then closing out the calendar year with five of their remaining six opponents coming from within their division. Those are games they’ll have to win.

As of right now, the Flames are fourth in the Pacific Division; if you go by points percentage, they’re third, behind the Sharks and the Ducks. At a minimum, this is a spot they’ll need to maintain.

vs Anaheim

Season series to date: 1-1

Goal differential: +2

The Flames and the Ducks have faced off against each other twice so far this season. The first was a pretty horrible game for the Flames, losing 4-1. Even though that game was in Anaheim, and therefore shouldn’t count, it unfortunately does.

The second game, on the other hand, was an 8-3 win for the Flames (which really should have been an 8-1 win, but alas). In the midst of their resurgence, the Flames completely throttled the Ducks, proving they could at least dominate them on their best night.

Games remaining: 3 (and just one in Anaheim, for the record)

vs Arizona

Season series to date: 2-0

Goal differential: +2

The Coyotes are, in a word, terrible. The Flames have played them twice so far this season, both resulting in 2-0 wins. You’d like to see a bit more dominance on their part, but hell, points are points and Calgary needs them through whatever means they can get them.

Even though the Coyotes shouldn’t be a playoff threat, the Flames are going to have to go for the season sweep against them, regardless. They can’t leave points on the board to a weak opponent.

Games remaining: 3

vs Edmonton

Season series to date: 0-2

Goal differential: -5

Remember the start of the season? Yeah I don’t want to either, that was terrible. The Flames and Oilers opened with home-and-away games, and the Oilers kicked ass in both, en route to their rise to the top of the Pacific. First, they won 7-4; then, they won 5-3.

They’re faltering now, though, while the Flames are improving. Hopefully that’s a trend that continues, because Calgary is going to need it. But when these two face off again next in January, I’m pretty sure we won’t see any more one-sided games.

Games remaining: 2

vs Los Angeles

Season series to date: 0-1

Goal differential: -5

Aside from that one magical 2014-15 season, the Kings have tended to be a thorn in the Flames’ side. That goes for this season, too; the Kings blew out the Flames 5-0 in the one game they’ve played so far. It was ugly.

But that was just one game, and this looks like a much different Flames team since then.

Games remaining: 4

vs San Jose

Season series to date: 1-0

Goal differential: +1

In the Flames’ first, short-lived revitalized burst of play, Matthew Tkachuk officially made the team and was key in taking down the Sharks, 3-2, in regulation. Depending on how this season goes, that very well could turn out to have been a crucial win when it comes to the divisional race.

Games remaining: 4

vs Vancouver

Season series to date: 0-0-1

Goal differential: -1

The Flames’ bad start to the season carried over into Vancouver, in which they failed to score any goals but somehow lost a 2-1 game in the shootout (thanks Loui Eriksson!). The Flames couldn’t capitalize off of that, though, and were generally terrible in their third game of the season.

The Canucks are bad, though. Like, really bad. Like, “held a 5-2 lead going into the third and lost 8-6” bad. And considering the corner the Flames have turned, there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to take the season series win.

Games remaining: 4

In summation

The Flames have played nine games against their division so far, and even though they’ve only just recently started to turn things around, they’ve been able to tread water with a .500 4-4-1 record.

Nine of their 34 points have come from their division. That’s a little over a quarter. The more they face Pacific opponents, the more they’re going to have to step it up.

Before the Flames stopped really sucking around mid-November-ish, they were throttled in five of their divisional games, while winning just one. Since they started turning it around for real, they’ve won three. It’s way too early to make any proclamations – especially since two of those three wins came against the Coyotes – but this is a trend they will absolutely have to continue.

Calgary has 20 games left to play against its division. A .500 record only gets them 20 more points, while leaving another 20 for their rivals to get into those top three divisional spots. They absolutely have to be better. 

The season is going to come down to the division. In the Flames’ final six games of the regular season, they host the three California teams, and then go on a three-game California roadie. If they can continue holding their own, then the entire season could very well come down to those six games.

  • Prototype369

    The games against Arizona and Vancouver should be achievable wins for the flames. It would be nice if they were regulation wins, but even OT/SO wins will get us points. The oilers are much better this year, and they’ve already spanked us twice, which pains me to say it, but they have. Based on both teams current plays, I can see a split in games. The sharks are no longer dominant over the flames as they used to be, so a 3-1 advantage in the remaining games is possible. The kings and the ducks however, they’re tough. The 8-3 drubbing of Anaheim was, to be frank, surprising, and unlikely repeatable. If anything, Anaheim will hunker down even more in the remaining games. And the kings beat us soundly 5-0, and they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL, like the Hawks and the pens, so it’s likely well lose all games to them.

  • jakethesnail

    Good thingie, we have most of the games against the Pac Division still to play after we got out the bad vibes of opening 6 weeks.

    Too bad we had 2 games in 3 nights against oil and the ‘nucks at the season’s start when GG was trying to figure out who his star players really were – Grossmann certainly wasn’t on my list.