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.