Last night, the Calgary Flames clinched a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs. Much excitement and ballyhoo ensued, as a team that looked like they were dead and buried in mid-November managed to crawl out of the muck and make something of themselves.
Well, now what?
The Flames have four games remaining. They have some potential jockeying they can do in the Western Conference standings. They have games remaining against Anaheim (twice), Los Angeles and San Jose. These games could matter quite a bit.
Here’s what’s at stake in the final quartet of regular season outings.
The Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in hockey right now. They’re rolling and they’re crushing teams. It would behoove the Flames to avoid playing Chicago at any cost, because a first round series with Chicago would probably result in some golf dates being booked soon after.
Is it possible? Yes. All the Flames need to do is finish ahead of St. Louis or Nashville. The Flames’ magic number on Nashville is 4 and on St. Louis is 5. That means any combination of 4 Flames wins and Predators losses guarantees the Flames stay ahead of Nashville. (Or 5 Flames wins and St. Louis losses means they stay ahead of the Blues.)
Staying ahead of Nashville is probably a bit more plausible than staying ahead of St. Louis. Nashville has Minnesota, St. Louis, the NY Islanders, Dallas and Winnipeg left to play. St. Louis has Nashville, Winnipeg, Florida, Carolina and Colorado. If I’m a team, I’d rather have the Blues’ schedule.
Getting a divisional playoff spot
While avoiding being demolished by Chicago is a primary objective, managing to wrangle a divisional playoff spot would allow the Flames to potentially get an even easier first round opponent. They’d probably rather avoid whichever team can claw their way into winning the Pacific. Is it possible? Yes, but it primarily relies upon them catching San Jose.
- Their magic number on San Jose is 5. The Sharks play Vancouver (twice), Edmonton and Calgary.
- Their magic number on Edmonton is 7. The Oilers play Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver twice.
- Their magic number on Anaheim is 7.5. The Ducks play Edmonton, Calgary (twice), Chicago and Los Angeles.
In other words…
If the Flames can win two of their remaining four games, particularly their game against San Jose, they can (a) avoid Chicago and (b) give themselves a pretty strong chance of moving past the Sharks and into a divisional playoff spot.
It’s going to be a very interesting final four games.