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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today

With the Pacific Division so tight, it’s possible the Flames will finish anywhere from first to fourth

It’s all but official: four teams from the Pacific Division will be in the playoffs this year, and the Flames are one of them.

But while the eight Western Conference playoff teams should be decided and clinched within a matter of days, the matchups are anything but certain. Chicago and Minnesota look pretty secure to be the first and second teams in the Central, while Nashville and St. Louis will be battling it out for that third divisional spot.

In the Pacific, though, it’s a free-for-all. Anaheim leads the way with 93 points. San Jose and Edmonton are second and third with 91 points each, with San Jose holding the tiebreaker. Calgary is in fourth place with 88 points: certainly behind, but not far enough that they can be counted out.

Especially when they’re all still playing each other in their final seven games of the season. Those matchups are bolded:

Game # Anaheim opponent San Jose opponent Edmonton opponent Calgary opponent
76 Vancouver NY Rangers Los Angeles Colorado
77 Winnipeg Edmonton San Jose Los Angeles
78 Edmonton Calgary Anaheim San Jose
79 Calgary Vancouver Los Angeles Anaheim
80 Calgary Vancouver San Jose Anaheim
81 Chicago Edmonton Vancouver Los Angeles
82 Los Angeles Calgary Vancouver San Jose

That’s seven games that are all going to have massive, massive impacts on the way the Pacific Division ultimately shapes out, and who will face who in the first round of the playoffs.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s use guesswork to eliminate some of the non-consequential games. Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Colorado should all be fodder – though surprises do happen – so let’s give the playoff teams the benefit of the doubt and adjust the standings for them, assuming two additional points for each of these teams they play against. That gives us:

  • Anaheim: 97 points
  • San Jose: 95 points
  • Edmonton: 95 points
  • Calgary: 90 points

The Flames lose on strength of remaining schedule here (though, in fairness, they had problems beating Vancouver Ryan Miller this season, so).

But that doesn’t rule them out from potentially making a big splash. Say they sweep San Jose and Anaheim. That picks up another eight points for them, while taking away four from their direct competition. That brings us to:

  • Calgary: 98 points
  • Anaheim: 97 points
  • San Jose: 95 points

Edmonton also playing against these two teams complicates things some. If they win their three games, that keeps Anaheim and San Jose behind Calgary – but vaults Edmonton ahead with 101 points. If, on the other hand, Anaheim and San Jose beat Edmonton, then the Oilers would stay back with 95 points, while Anaheim and San Jose would retake the lead with 99 points each.

Clean sweeps for everyone aren’t necessarily going to happen – and there are probably going to be some three-point games in the mix, because of course there will be – but though they have the weakest chance right now, it’s entirely possible the Flames could finish first in the Pacific. Everything would have to go right for them and almost everything would have to go wrong for everybody else, but the potential is there.

All this is leaving out the total wild card the Kings may be. They should be officially done within days, but that’s a veteran team laden with recent Stanley Cup winners; it’s hard to see them lying down and dying once they’re mathematically eliminated.

If the Flames go on a mini-tear, though, and just one of the other three teams falters (you’ll note the Sharks, who looked certain to win the Pacific like a week ago, are on a six-game losing streak), that could be enough to vault the Flames into a divisional playoff spot. If that happens, then keep an eye on their ROW stat – regulation and overtime victories – because San Jose leads the way with 40, but Anaheim and Calgary are tied with 38… and the tiebreaker after ROW involves points collected against one another. The Flames have taken four from the Sharks (and given them two); the Ducks have taken four from the Flames (and given them two). Both season series are still in play.

You couldn’t ask for a better end to the season.