The Flames have lost three games in a row, and have looked utterly lost since Mike Smith went down with an injury, like one or two games aside. They’re 3-6-1 without Smith now, their goal differential keeps trending downwards, and teams they’re chasing keep winning. You’ll forgive the pessimism and desire to overlook the remaining games this season; it’s pretty well deserved at the moment.
If anything, this stretch has likely cemented Smith’s place as team MVP for the 2017-18 season. Maybe he can come back and help the Flames squeak in? Not like there’s anything else to cheer for without a first round pick this year, futile as it may end up being.
So to that end, let’s take a look at what’s remaining, and how possible it might be (assuming everyone on the ice gets their acts together).
The loss to the Rangers was particularly brutal because they aren’t going anywhere this season. The Flames still have a couple more games against similar such opponents: Edmonton twice, Arizona twice, Buffalo once, Ottawa once, and even Columbus once, though at present they’re just on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
Those first six games absolutely have to be won, though. No excuses. We can joke about the Flames performing below expectations but they face four bottom five opponents to close out the year. They’re far worse than the Rangers, and that’s 12 points the Flames must pick up.
Eight teams in the Western Conference are currently in the 70-point range, the Flames being the worst of the bunch at 73. However, two small swings of fortune – a three-game losing streak for someone, a three-game winning streak for the Flames – could reverse fates pretty quick. To that end, screw all of these teams:
- Dallas Stars (79 points)
- Minnesota Wild (79 points)
- San Jose Sharks (79 points)
- Los Angeles Kings (77 points)
- Anaheim Ducks (76 points)
- Colorado Avalanche (75 points)
- St. Louis Blues (75 points)
The Stars have six games left against those opponents: two against the Wild, two against the Ducks, one against the Sharks and one against the Kings. That’s eight Pacific points that could be taken into the Central.
The Wild have seven games left against those opponents: two against the Stars, one against the Avalanche, two against the Kings, one against the Ducks, and one against the Sharks. Again, another eight Pacific points that could be taken into the Central.
The Avalanche have seven games left against those opponents: two against the Blues, one against the Wild, two against the Kings, one against the Ducks, and one against the Sharks. Yet again, eight more Pacific points that could be headed out of the division.
The Blues have six games left against those opponents: two against the Avalanche, two against the Sharks, one against the Kings, and one against the Ducks. So, once again: eight points.
The Flames may be battling with the Central Division for a chance at a wild card playoff spot, but they’ll also be hoping they’re their friends and take a grand total of 10 points away from the Sharks, 12 points away from the Kings, and 10 points away from the Ducks. If they succeed, that could put the Stars and Wild out of reach, but the Avalanche and Blues are close enough back to the Flames to maybe make one wild card spot possible.
The Flames have no games remaining against the Stars, Wild, Avalanche, or Blues.
Really, you could probably blame Vegas’ success for all of this. They’re an expansion team, they aren’t supposed to be that high in the standings. If they weren’t there then the Flames would be looking a lot better for a playoff spot, even if it was a wild card one. Alas.
The Sharks have two games against the Flames. That’s it for Pacific opponents still battling for a playoff spot.
The Kings have one game against the Flames and one game against the Ducks. That’s it for Pacific opponents still battling for a playoff spot.
The Ducks have one game against the Flames and one game against the Kings. That’s it for Pacific opponents still battling for a playoff spot.
This is extremely good, because it means if the Flames can take care of things on their end (stop laughing it’s technically possible), that’s only two Pacific points guaranteed to a divisional opponent. That’s only one possible three-point game to worry about. The Flames can’t completely make up ground on any of the California teams in games against them alone, but they can make it much more interesting if they win those four games.
… There’s still a month of hockey to be played. There are a ton of factors left to consider, and the California teams probably aren’t going to lose out. But then again, neither are the Flames! Probably.
… This is all extremely reliant on the Flames showing up and actually winning some games again, with or without Smith. They don’t do that, they’re done regardless.
The Flames first take on the Sharks again March 16. They play five games before then, including three against bottom five teams. Maybe it’ll already be hopeless by the time they host San Jose; maybe the tides will have turned within the next two weeks. Either way, one step at a time: and hope March 16 is a meaningful game.