The Los Angeles Kings lost to the Arizona Coyotes last night. The shootout loss dropped the Calgary Flames’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot to nine, meaning any combination of nine Flames wins or Kings losses would result in the Flames cementing a post-season berth.
With relatively few games remaining for both clubs, the rapidly diminishing magic number seems to beg a very specific question: When will the Flames clinch a playoff spot?
A HANDY TABLE
Here’s a quick table plotting out the remaining games for Calgary and Los Angeles. The main underlying assumption presented in the table? The teams win the games you would reasonably expect them to, which for these purposes are games against teams below them in the standings (unless it’s the second half of a back-to-back).
|3/15||BOS (W)||down to 8|
|3/17||DAL (W)||down to 7|
|3/19||LA (W)||@CGY (L)||down to 5|
|3/20||@EDM (L)||down to 4|
|3/23||@NSH (W)||WPG (W)||down to 3|
|3/25||@STL (W)||NYR (L)||down to 2|
|3/27||COL (W)||down to 1|
|3/28||@EDM (L)|| down to 0,
As you can see, the Flames have a lot of wiggle room. The draw-down of the magic number to zero is finished on March 28. The Flames still would have six games remaining, including two against the Kings. The Kings would still have seven games remaining, including a rough final four games against the Oilers, Flames, Blackhawks and Ducks (all playoff teams). Right now, our best projection for when the Flames clinch is March 28. Even if we’re off and the Flames lose a couple games in the interim, they have a ton of wiggle room based on the number of games remaining for both them (to win) and the Kings (to lose).
A frequent question we’ve received on Twitter: What if the Flames lose all three games against the Kings (in regulation)? They still can clinch, and likely do, just a fair bit later. Using the above draw-down table as reference, the Flames would instead need to get points against the other California teams OR they’d need to rely on the Kings losing to other teams, such as the Oilers, Blackhawks or Ducks. Either of those approaches, or a combination of them, result in an X appearing beside their name in the standings.
Clinching earlier (via beating the Kings once more on March 19) gives the Flames a bunch of breathing room, as they’ll know they’re playoff bound and can start to make roster management decisions, and could allow them to focus on the divisional race rather than expending mental energy on worrying about the teams below them.