Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Three lessons from Flames playoff history

The 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs are the 27th time that the Flames franchise has qualified for the postseason (and the 21st time in 36 seasons they’ve done it since moving to Calgary). The playoff history of the Flames is one filled with triumphs and bitter defeats.

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, so here are three quick lessons from the annals of time that the Flames should bear in mind during this year’s festivities.

Win a game

The Flames were swept in 1974, 1976, 1978 and 1979. All told, they won all of two playoff games during their time in Atlanta – one in 1977, one in 1980 – before winning nine of them during their first season in Calgary. Since moving to Calgary, the Flames have only been swept three times – the last time by Chicago in 1996 (in Jarome Iginla’s NHL debut series). Winning a game is key to both winning a series and losing one with some dignity.

Sweeps of the Flames:

  • 1974: lost 4-0 to Philadelphia
  • 1976: lost 2-0 to Los Angeles
  • 1978: lost 2-0 to Detroit
  • 1979: lost 2-0 to Toronto
  • 1982: lost 3-0 to Vancouver
  • 1988: lost 4-0 to Edmonton
  • 1996: lost 4-0 to Chicago

Aside from the 1988 sweep by the Oilers in the second round, all of these sweeps were during the first round. For the curious, the Flames have only swept an opponent three times: 1981 against Chicago, 1986 against Winnipeg and 1989 against Los Angeles.

Win the first game

It sounds really obvious, but much like the team that scores first wins more often than not, the team that wins the first game in a playoff series usually wins. In Flames playoff history, they’re 12-4 in a series when winning the first game and 4-22 when losing the first game.

Lost Game 1, won the series:

  • 1981 second round: Lost Game 1 to Philadelphia, won the series in seven games
  • 1986 conference final: Lost Game 1 to St. Louis, won the series in seven games
  • 1989 first round: Lost Game 1 to Vancouver, won the series in seven games
  • 2004 first round: Lost Game 1 to Vancouver, won the series in seven games

Won Game 1, lost the series:

  • 1986 Stanley Cup Final: Won Game 1 against Montreal, lost the series in five games
  • 2004 Stanley Cup Final: Won Game 1 against Tampa Bay, lost the series in seven games
  • 2006 first round: Won Game 1 against Anaheim, lost the series in seven games
  • 2008 first round: Won Game 1 against San Jose, lost the series in seven games

Become road warriors

The Flames are the lower seed in their first round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Regardless of your belief in any Honda Center Curse mumbo-jumbo, being a good road team is useful generally but is crucial when you’re the lower seed and have to face the opponent in their barn up to four times over two weeks.

In their history, the Flames have played 19 series as the underdog. They’ve won just six of those series. See if you notice a pattern here:

  • 1981 second round: beat Philadelphia in seven, splitting the four road games
  • 1986 second round: beat Edmonton in seven games, winning three of four road games
  • 2004 first round: beat Vancouver in seven games, winning three of four road games
  • 2004 second round: beat Detroit in six games, winning two of three road games
  • 2004 conference final: beat San Jose in six games, winning all three road games
  • 2015 first round: beat Vancouver in six games, winning one of three road games

Aside from 2015, where they were able to beat Vancouver despite never really establishing a strong road game – something that came back to haunt them against Anaheim in the following series – the Flames are only successful as underdogs when they establish themselves as a strong road team. Or when they face a team that’s bad, like Vancouver.

    • Should be. Oilers fan here, not trolling, I seriously hope you don’t get screwed by the officials, Thought this US favoritism would go away in the playoffs, but apparently not. There should have been at least 9 penalties leveled to the Sharks, all in the rule book, but again only applies to Canadian franchises. Prepare to watch your stars get mugged, hooked, tripped and slashed with no calls coming your way. If you dress Wideman , you will probably be short handed for about 58 minutes of the game. Sadly officiating will decide if there is a BOA, instead of being decided on the ice. I fully expect you will be hose bagged just like the Oilers were last night.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I watched a good chunk of the Oilers game and…..I did not see any serious mis justice. Pavelick seemed to hack and whack McD when given the chance but that was not enough to hang the loss on. The truth is Talbot kept the Oilers in the game and came close to stealing a win.

        • I agree, but if Connor was the one laying the lumber , you could bet dollars to donuts that it will be called, and when the players sense they are being screwed by the officials yet again, I fully expect that that would take some winds out of their sails. Looked to me like it deflated the entire team. I am from Edmonton but live south of Calgary so I watch a lot more Flames games than I used to. I used to think I was imaging this bias , until I started watching Flames games, and guess what, the Flames get screwed by the officials as badly as the Oilers or any other Canadian team, possibly even more with the “Wideman” effect. You dress him and you know the penalties will be even more lopsided than we already know they are going to be.

          • Jumping Jack Flash

            Right back at you…. I am from Calgary but live in Edmonton. Honestly, the lack of calls on McD and Johnny are beyond explanation. Physically McD is better suited to overcome this extra attention than Johnny. Whatever McD receives from Pavelick pales in comparison to what Johnny will endure from Kesler. The one thing Edmonton has going for them is they will not be man handled if they get to the next round, however if The Flames look to come out of this series the Ducks will take liberties with our better players.

      • Flint

        Re: the refs… who knows TBH. But I think if the Flames are going to try to avoid a similar fate to the Oil in game one, not getting outshot 44-19 would be the place my hope would begin. Were the refs perfect? Are they ever? I can tell you, if the series continues like that game, the Oil won’t last 5 games. Edm needs to be better more than the refs do.

  • supra steve

    One lesson from history, as I have observed it: All the prognosticating is worth absolutely nothing. The games are decided on the ice, and no blades have hit that ice yet. GFG and GOG and F… the Ducks.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I am sure this has been discussed but I am interested in opinions on icing the best line for the playoffs within the organization.