Handicapping the Western playoff race

Despite playing bad hockey throughout October, the Calgary Flames are in the midst of a playoff race with roughly a third of the season to go. The bad news is they’re up against three other teams for just three playoff spots.

The Flames, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings are vying for three playoff spots in the Western Conference. They all have roughly the same number of games left. How do their games remaining compare to each other? Who has the easiest schedule? The toughest?

Let’s dive in!

A Fancy Chart

(This chart excludes Saturday games.)

Blues Preds Kings Flames
Points 61 60 60 59
Wins 28 26 28 28
Games
Left
26 27 27 26
vs. West 20 17 21 16
Home 11 13 17 14
Road 15 14 10 12
B2Bs 4 4 6 1
Opp
Pct.
.501 .569 .545 .548

Handicapping

The Blues:

Currently in third place in the Central Division. They have 61 points and are two points up on Calgary.

St. Louis has 26 games left, with a strong skew towards road games and games against Western Conference opponents. They have the easiest schedule in terms of opponents’ points percentage, facing opponents who are going an average of .501 – this is bulked up with three games against Arizona and four against Colorado. If they can take care of business against the lowly teams, life could be easy for them down the stretch.

Now, before you go penciling the Blues into the post-season note that they have four sets of back-to-back games (and three of them involve travel).

The Predators:

Currently in the first wildcard spot. They have 60 points and are one point up on Calgary.

Nashville has 27 games left, split fairly evenly between home and road games. They have almost as many games against Eastern teams as against Western teams, which means three-point games aren’t nearly as scary for them. They have a relatively tough schedule ahead – their opponents average a .569 points percentage – and only a pair of games against Arizona and Colorado.

The Predators also have four sets of back-to-backs remaining, in addition to a pair of games against Florida and Dallas this weekend. The scarier thing for the Preds is that three of their four back-to-backs involve travel between games.

The Kings:

Currently in the second wildcard spot. They have 60 points and are one point up on Calgary.

Los Angeles has 27 games left, skewed fairly heavily towards home games and Western Conference opponents. They’re facing opponents with an average .545 points percentage, and they have three games against Arizona and one against Colorado. The Kings may be hurt even further by having six sets of back-to-backs remaining. Half of them involve travel outside of the state of California. Two of the Kings’ four games against the Flames are on nights when the Flames are rested and the Kings play the previous night (in another city).

The Flames:

Currently third in the wildcard race, just outside of a playoff spot. They have 59 points.

Calgary has 26 games left, skewed slightly towards home games. They have almost as many games left against Eastern teams as against Western teams which, again, may help them in the context of three-point games not being quite as painful for them. They’re facing opponents with an average .548 points percentage and have one game left against each of Arizona and Colorado. The schedule’s not easy, but the Flames have the fewest back-to-backs of any of the teams in this group with just one remaining (in Florida against the Lightning and Panthers).

Sum It Up

The Flames aren’t going to just walk into the playoffs, but as you can see here, between scheduling, opponents and a beautiful lack of back-to-back games they’re going to be in pretty good shape. If they can take care of their own business – particularly against Western Conference opponents – they should be in the race until the very end.

  • freethe flames

    With the playoff race being so tight I think BT has to be a buyer and a seller. He can add to his team by finding someone who can play instead of Wideman and that could be a rental. Keep the cost low. Adding a skilled forward would also improve our chances; again keep the cost as low as possible. You don’t have to hit a home run but surely there must be upgrades on Wides, Engs,jj, Chiasson,and Bouma, to name 5 that are out there. You don’t have to replace them all but it is worth trying. 1 or 2 wins either way could mean a playoff spot.

    • Greg

      If they can do something minor that fixes an obvious weakness (like an upgrade in the bottom 3 D for a late pick or tweener prospect), then sure. Otherwise, keep the powder dry until the kids are ready to contend for real. Don’t spend future assets on a young team that is no where near it’s peak yet.

      (Although if the expansion draft shakes someone loose that can fit in the long term plans, fire away now).

      • freethe flames

        Personally I think the kids are ready and would develop even further/faster with another play off experience. But I do agree with the premise not to over spend on a rental. As I said we can be sellers and buyers. There is no need to swing for the fences but if we could get a piece for late picks or prospects then we should. There is also a time to make a significant hockey trade to get to the next level; I’m not sure we are there yet but one can’t be afraid to do so. I also think if you can be first to make these deals it forces the other bubble teams to over pay for their rentals.

  • Ogie Oglethorp

    It’s going to come down to the last 6 games. LA, LA, ANA, ANA, SJ, SJ (not in that order)

    Yikes that is scary for a final 6… but it should be in our hands with the 2 LA games assuming we don’t fall off a cliff in the next 20 games.

    I’m happy to be in the race.

  • Pond Hockey

    Parity in the league is crazy. We Flames fans moan and groan about our team but I can only assume that we are not alone given that we’re still in the playoff mix.

    Good time for a hot streak just in time to peak for the playoffs.

  • freethe flames

    I read a lot of the trade rumours out there but there is seldom much about the Flames; BT seems to run a tight ship. Must be hard with CC as your assistant GM. It’s fun to speculate but I wonder what BT will actually do. Once he does do something there will be lots of chatter here I’m sure. My opinion stands; I still believe he needs to do something to improve their chance to make the playoffs.

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    Those handful of games against the Kings are going to be huuuuuge. I just hope one of our goalies can find their game and be consistent before then, eliminating the need to spend assets on a stop-gap.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am afraid hat we won’t have much help from Stockton….another loss…another power outage. Both our goalies seem to be doing their part but the offense has dried up. I would like to see them bring up Janko to give him some games this season in preparation for a starting position with the Flames next year.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    One thing that should be noted, is this year’s Flames are not getting bounced around physically like last year. Chaisson, Brouwer, and Tkachuk have brought some added size to play against the California teams. We are far more equipped to play those last 6 games this year against teams positioning themselves for playoffs.

    • The GREAT WW

      Didn’t the rested Oilers play the Hawks on a back to back again?

      Someone please post the number of opponents with back to back games against the Oilers this year. It has to be a record…

      WW

      • Pond Hockey

        It’s getting hard for the players to focus because they’re daydreaming about the trade deadline.

        Last I heard the players up there were picking straws to see which lucky ones would be exposed in the expansion draft.

      • Pond Hockey

        The players up there are finding it hard to focus because they’re busy daydreaming about the trade deadline.

        Last I heard the players were picking straws to find out which lucky ones would be exposed in the expansion draft,

  • Pond Hockey

    The players up there are are busy daydreaming about the trade deadline.

    Last I heard they were picking straws to find out which lucky ones would be exposed in the expansion draft.

  • freethe flames

    Many on this sight say they would never trade a first rounder but I would. I would never trade it for a rental or a guy over 27(unless he was exceptional) but I would trade it for a 20-25 year old with an NHL resume that I project could meet a glaring team need. At this time with the expansion draft looming I would not trade it straight across for a RHD because I think we would lose him in expansion. However if it was a RHF that I project could play long term with either Johnny/Monny or Tkachuk/Bennett I would seriously look to do it. Obviously I would prefer to trade later picks, UFA’s, fringe NHLer’s or B prospects and get our needs met but I doubt that would get things done.

  • freethe flames

    So in watching the Redwings/Wild game it was reported that Vanek is out with an ankle sprain; that could take him completely out as a rental. The good news is that it makes a guy like Versteeg more valuable as a rental. Also heard that Franson blocked a shot with his foot and is out for at least the weekend. f