Playoff push: Breaking down the Flames’ remaining 18 games

flames vs kings matthew tkachuk
Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

There are 18 games to go in the season.

Well, actually, hopefully there are more than 18 games to go. Hopefully there are at least another four after that; hopefully, even more than that. As things currently stand, the Flames are in the first wild card spot and seventh in the West in points percentage. They are firmly in playoff position.

It’s March. They’ve got a little over a month to go to make sure they stay there. Let’s break down these next 18 games.

The Flames will return to action on March 3 when they host the Detroit Red Wings. The New York Islanders will come to town on March 5, and then there will be three days without games before the Montreal Canadiens visit the Saddledome on March 9.

After that, the Flames play every other day for the rest of the season. It’s a jam-packed schedule that’s sure to keep the excitement ramped up and, perhaps better yet, features no back-to-backs. (Three of the teams they play will be coming in on the second of a back-to-back, however: Dallas, as well as Los Angeles and San Jose once each.)

A week from today kicks off the start of every-other-day Flames hockey, so hold on to your butts.

Home and away

It’ll be a busy finish at the Saddledome, as 11 of these upcoming games are home ones. The Flames have a 16-14-0 record at home (.533), compared to 18-12-4 on the road (.588).

So the Flames have just seven road games left. One is a quick little trip out to Winnipeg. Later in March, they’ll have a bit of an odd swing, jetting out to Washington and dipping into a Central trip through Nashville and St. Louis before coming back home. And then, of course, they’ll finish the season with a three-game California road trip.

It’s those final six games, all against California teams, that may make or break this season. If anything, it’s certainly set up for an exciting finish.

So, who’s left to play against?

The Flames have just seven divisional games to go: those final six California games, plus another game against the Kings for good measure.

They have just five other games against Western opponents: Winnipeg, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis, and Colorado.

That leaves six games to go against the East: Detroit, the New York Islanders, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Washington. These are probably the least stressful games; three-pointers don’t matter here, because the Flames aren’t competing with these teams for playoff spots.

The Flames sit 14th in the NHL with a .563 points percentage. Half of their games will be against teams below them in that stat: Detroit, the Islanders, Winnipeg, Dallas, Los Angeles (x3), St. Louis, and Colorado. Of these teams, four – Detroit, Winnipeg, Dallas, and Colorado – are below the .500 marker.

That leaves the other half of their remaining games against teams above them in points percentage: Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose (x2), Montreal, Anaheim (x2), Nashville, and Boston. Anaheim, Nashville, and Boston are the teams just above the Flames in points percentage – below .600 – so it’s not as though they’re world beaters. Washington is the best in the NHL at .734.

How’s it going to shake out?

The Flames currently sit at 72 points. According to Sports Club Stats, they have an 82% chance of making the playoffs. The site believes that 95 points is a guarantee for them to be in, while even just hitting 92 upgrades their chances to 97.4%.

Doing this as simply as possible, the Flames should be aiming to get at least another 20 points over their remaining 18 games: a .556 clip. That’s a little under where they are right now. If all they do is keep pace, they have a pretty good shot.

Who can they beat? Nothing is a given – remember that 5-0 loss to the Coyotes – but let’s assume they take the four games they have against the bottom feeders (there’s really no excuse to lose to them). That’s eight points right there; as long as the Flames get those, they would only have to play at a .500 stretch the rest of the way.

Breaking down the East opponents, the Flames have beaten Boston and Pittsburgh (and Detroit), lost in overtime to the Islanders, and just plain lost to Montreal (a blowout) and Washington. If they repeat their performance more or less (excluding Detroit, because we’ve already covered them), that’s a .500 record right there and another five points, bringing them up to 13.

That leaves seven or 10 points to try to grab in nine games against St. Louis, Nashville, and the California teams. They have beaten and lost to all of these teams throughout the season. The Sharks are the only ones who are really out of reach; the rest are all on about the same level, with some fluctuation. These are the teams the Flames are directly battling with for spots, too, so wins basically count as doubles, while losses hurt extra hard. Still – just win half of these games, and the chances look good.

Playoffs?

As long as the Flames win the games they’re absolutely supposed to and go .500 the rest of the way… yeah, probably.

  • StevetheCGYfan

    I feel a lot more confident if the flames got Minnesota in the first round rather than San Jose.. Here’s hoping if it happens they get past the Wild and the hawks in the 1st and 2nd round and the oil get past their first 2 rounds for a first time Battle of Alberta Western conference Final…. wouldn’t that be something.

    • Prototype369

      Would you rather pass the oilers in standings, but end up playing the ducks in the first round, (who will sweep us probably), OR remain eighth, and play Minnesota (who we’ve swept this season) and then possibly even get to the western finals if the ducks get eliminated by someone else?

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Wait..?…so are you suggesting they lose a few games on purpose just to stay in the last wildcard?

        More points the better. Im not getting my hopes up for anything, because ive made that maistake too many times…but hope for every single point thats there and worry about a match up later.

        • Prototype369

          I’m just apprehensive about facing the ducks lol. If in 2014, it had been anyone but the ducks, I’m pretty sure we could have taken it to game 7, and with luck, maybe even won the second round. This year, I know we’ve been swept by the oilers, but that was when this team had no identity. Anyone but the ducks, and maybe the sharks as well, and I’m good.

          • The Doctor

            Please correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Giordano get injured prior to that Ducks series? That seriously hooped us, because our coaching staff responded by giving extra minutes to Brodie, Russell and Wideman, and those guys had to dial it back in order to play those sorts of minutes. As a result, the Ducks’ big forwards just incessantly cycled the puck, wore our Dmen out and killed us with possession and O zone time.

          • dontcryWOLF88

            Youre definetely not wrong about Gio being out. And yeah, that hurt. We also didnt have the 3M line. Backlund was not what he is now. No frolik. No tkachuk. No Hamilton

            Although, as an odd twist. That was the best year of Dennis Widemans entire career. I think he got 15 goals that year. Backlund had 18

          • The Doctor

            That year, we got incredible production out of our back end. That was a big part of the Hartley Miracle. So many guys on that team that year had career years in terms of scoring (which in a number of cases have never been replicated and never will): Wideman, Brodie, Gio, Russell, Hudler in particular. Russell obviously had his defensive and size issues, but that year he did a decent job of moving the puck and generating offense. The next season, a number of these men fell back to earth.

          • piscera.infada

            The Flames were no where near ready to beat the Ducks in 2015. Gio or not, they were the far inferior team. They were the second worst team to make the playoffs in the West that year, and were very lucky to draw the only team worse than them in the Canucks. Those were good times.

            However, this year, they are a much better team. Here’s hoping they keep playing well down the stretch, and get in.

  • Sanintarious

    Its still somewhat very possible for the Flames and Oilers to play in the first round….

    If the Flames pass the Ducks (Which is possible considering they are only 2 points back-With the Ducks having a gm in hand) the Flames and Oilers would likely battle it out for home ice and play each other in the first round….

    • The Doctor

      I’ve always thought that at some point, we’re going to be able to start beating the Ducks. They’re still a strong team, but I don’t think they’ve improved nearly as much as the Flames in the last year or so and in a couple of areas (E.g., Dmen) the Ducks have arguably regressed a bit. I think the Flames have steadily improved, we now easily match them in skill and speed. Also our defense is not as small and soft as it was when the Ducks crushed us in 4 straight (e.g., no Russell, and apparently no more Wideman). And one thing this current Flames team is starting to exhibit which I really like is depth, especially up front. We’re not entirely there yet, but with the recent move of Chaisson to the fourth line, I like our forward line depth a lot more than I did before.

  • Brodano12

    Edmonton hasn’t finished above the Flames in the standings in a full season (not a lockout season) since 2003. That’s a dozen years being below us in the standings. If we can pull ahead of them in the final stretch, it would be soooo satisfying. If, even after Oilers fans finally get a playoff team and sweep the season series against, we still finish above them, we would have soooo much braggin rights!

    • The Doctor

      You’re correct on both counts, my faulty memory. We won one game at home. Giordano got injured in late February and needed surgery. Which, btw, makes our playoff spot and victory over the Canucks even more impressive.

  • Pond Hockey

    It doesn’t matter which team the Flames meet. Playoffs are a different animal where there are always surprises and upsets. Which teams are hot, lucky, have or don’t have injury problems etc.

  • Newbietwo

    Play off hockey don’t think of anything but the opposition goalie.. that being said I wouldn’t want Minnesota I would take the ducks oilers then San Jose