A month ago, the Calgary Flames were considered a relative long shot to qualify for the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. While they haven’t necessarily stamped their ticket to the post-season dance, they’ve done a lot to cement their place in that conversation. Not only that, they’re currently – improbably – in the mix for the divisional playoff spot.
Right now, the most likely playoff scenarios on Sports Club Stats have the Flames finishing second or third in the Pacific or in the first wildcard position (which would have them start the playoffs against San Jose, a Pacific team). Given how Pacific-centric the postseason could be, here’s a look at how the race to the very end looks for everyone except for San Jose (who are too far ahead to catch).
- Record: 39-26-4, 82 points, 35 regulation/overtime wins
- Remaining: 13 games; 7 home and 6 away
- Opponents: Anaheim (twice), Boston, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles (thrice), Nashville, San Jose (twice), St. Louis, Washington
- Strength of Schedule: opponents average .560 points percentage
The Flames are masters of their own destiny, really. Their schedule is slightly easier than the Ducks’, they have zero back-to-back situations left, and they play seven of their remaining 13 games in-division. If they take care of their own business, particularly against Anaheim, they have a good shot at finishing in a divisional spot.
- Record: 36-23-10, 82 points, 33 regulation/overtime wins
- Remaining: 13 games; 8 home and 5 away
- Opponents: Buffalo, Calgary (twice), Chicago, Edmonton (twice), Los Angeles, NY Rangers, San Jose, St. Louis, Vancouver, Winnipeg (twice)
- Strength of Schedule: opponents average .564 points percentage
The Ducks have the toughest schedule and still have a pair of back-to-backs left (Buffalo/San Jose and Edmonton/Calgary). However, they’ve historically been quite good against the Flames, particularly in late season games in Anaheim. If the Ducks can simply beat Calgary twice in their head-to-head meetings, they can probably eke out home ice in the first round.
- Record: 35-24-9, 79 points, 31 regulation/overtime wins
- Remaining: 14 games; 9 home, 5 away
- Opponents: Anaheim (twice), Boston, Colorado (twice), Dallas, Los Angeles (thrice), San Jose (twice), Vancouver (thrice)
- Strength of Schedule: opponents average .514 points percentage
Edmonton has the easiest schedule of the four teams we’re looking at. That said, aside from Colorado, Dallas and Vancouver, they face a lot of teams that are jockeying for (a) specific playoff positions or (b) their playoff lives. The Oilers have two back-to-backs remaining, but they’ll need to find a way to match the desperation of the teams they’ll be facing down the stretch.
- Record: 33-29-6, 72 points, 31 regulation/overtime wins
- Remaining: 14 games; 8 home, 6 away
- Opponents: Anaheim, Arizona (twice), Buffalo, Calgary (thrice), Chicago, Edmonton (thrice), NY Rangers, Vancouver, Winnipeg
- Strength of Schedule: opponents average .551 points percentage
It’s hard to peg the Kings. On one hand, they face a bunch of non-playoff teams like Arizona, Buffalo, Vancouver and Winnipeg. On the other hand, they have three sets of back-to-backs remaining (Calgary/Edmonton, Edmonton/Calgary and Chicago/Anaheim) and face the two Alberta teams a combined six times. In the past, that’d be a recipe for a playoff spot. This year? They may be golfing.
Let’s suppose that two of these teams end up with the same number of points at any point of the season. Here’s how the NHL dictates who finishes where.
- Points percentage. If the teams have played the same number of games, this one is moot.
- Regulation/overtime wins.
- Most points in the season series between two teams. (If they’ve played an odd number of games, the first game played in the city that hosted the extra game will be thrown out.)
- Goal differential.
For the Flames, in the event of a tie the good news is they have an edge on most of the teams in the divisional race in regulation/overtime wins. Aside from Edmonton, who swept all four games with the Flames, the season series tiebreaker is still very much in play with the Flames still having a bunch of games left against Anaheim and Los Angeles. And their recent winning streak has had the nice side effect of largely correcting their awful goal differential. If the tiebreakers get that far, they still have a fighting chance.