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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Playoff Chase: The clock is ticking

The Calgary Flames have 11 games remaining on their schedule. They need about 96 points to make the playoffs. They’re trying to crash a playoff party that’s looking like it’ll have even fewer seats to fill than it did a few weeks ago.

Here’s our weekly look at just how crazy the playoff picture looks this season.

Where they stand

(Sorted by points percentage.)

Team
GP
W
Pts
Pct. ROW
Div
Chances % Change
Predators 70 46 102 .729 41 CEN 100% none
Golden Knights 70 45 95 .678 42 PAC 100% none
Jets 71 42 94 .662 40 CEN 99.9% -0.1%
Wild 70 39 85 .607 36 CEN 84.7% -7.6%
Sharks 70 38 85 .607 34 PAC 89.6% +5.0%
Avalanche 70 38 84 .600 37 CEN 85.6% +30.5%
Kings 71 39 84 .592 37 PAC 85.8% -0.5%
Stars 71 38 83 .585 34 CEN 55.0% -17.5%
Ducks 71 35 82 .577 31 PAC 52.7% -16.9%
Blues 70 37 79 .564 34 CEN 27.2% +7.6%
Flames 71 35 80 .563 33 PAC 19.6%
-0.3%
Blackhawks 71 30 68 .479 29 CEN 0.0% none
Oilers 70 30 65 .464 26 PAC 0.0% none
Canucks 71 25 59 .415 25 PAC Out Eliminated
Coyotes 70 23 57 .407 21 PAC Out Eliminated

(Chances courtesy Sports Club Stats.)

Nashville, Vegas and Winnipeg are locks. There’s some shuffling in relative chances behind them, but Colorado has elbowed their way into the “strong bet” club with a very strong week: they join Minnesota, San Jose and Los Angeles.

At this point, the Central spots look to go to Nashville, Winnipeg and Minnesota; the Pacific spots are Vegas, San Jose and Los Angeles. That leaves Colorado with one wild card spot, with Dallas, Anaheim, St. Louis and Calgary fighting over the one remaining wild card spot. There’s still time left, but the clock is ticking for the Flames.

This past week

The Flames beat Ottawa to end their big road trip. Then they came home and lost to the NY Islanders, then beat the Oilers with a 1-0 shutout. They captured four of a possible six points.

This coming week

The Flames have four big divisional games this week: they host San Jose on Friday, visit Vegas on Sunday and Arizona on Monday, then host Anaheim on Wednesday.

Divisional stretch

(ed. – This is Ari taking over this section.)

As the playoff race heightens, every game is the biggest one for the Flames. That’s now more true than ever, as they’re in the midst of a seven-game Pacific opponent stretch, starting with their win over the Oilers. But the kicker here is four of their next six games are against teams the Flames are directly competing against for a playoff spot.

Though they’re behind, a divisional playoff spot still isn’t out of the question. Let’s ignore Vegas and Arizona for now, and focus on the California teams. The Flames have played 71 games. So have the Ducks and Kings. The Sharks have played 70.

If the Flames beat Anaheim, they tie them in points. As things stand that keeps both teams out of the playoff picture. However, if Anaheim wins in regulation, then they gain a four-point lead on the Flames: a much more precarious situation.

If the Flames beat Los Angeles, they will be two points back of them for a potential divisional spot. However, if Los Angeles wins in regulation, then that’s a six-point gap.

If the Flames beat San Jose twice, they will be one point back of them with the Sharks having a game in hand. If San Jose beats them twice in regulation, then that’s a nine-point gap. If they split the two games, things stay a five-point gap, all with the Sharks maintaining their game in hand.

In other words: winning those four games is the difference between the Flames making themselves a threat, or making sure the games following this divisional stretch are essentially meaningless.

Using extremely basic projections – two points against lesser teams, one point against middling teams, no points against stronger teams – here’s where the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks could be once everyone has played 77 games:

  • Ducks: 89 with a loss to the Flames, 91 with a win
  • Kings: 89 with a loss to the Flames, 91 with a win
  • Sharks: 91 with two losses to the Flames, 95 with two wins

Let’s split the Vegas and Arizona games and give the Flames two of a possible four points, putting them at 82, before factoring in the California games. They win all four, they’re at 90 points: ahead of the Ducks and Kings, and one back of the Sharks. They win two, they’re at 86: behind everyone, and only just barely in striking distance, depending on who they lose to. They win none, and they’re at 82: they’re essentially done.

In all likelihood, the Flames will have to, at absolute minimum, take three of four games against the California teams to give themselves a chance.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Always a Flames fan, but the stars, sun and moon will have to line up perfectly over the last 11 games for playoff hockey. They will line up only enough for early tee times this year.

  • Joeyhere

    Earlier this year FN did an analysis of how many games we would have won with an average PP (ie move Hamilton and Thachuk up in November not Feb) the conclusion was we would have won as extra 3-5 games

    Add a few games where we didn’t show (6-0 loss to Ottawa, first game vs Buffalo, loses to oilers and the one where GG left Brouwer out in the last minute to win a face off)

    Coaching has easily cost us 10 -12 points
    A better coach and none of us would have to do this math hoping the Flames can go 7 for 10 and praying for others teams to lose

    Thanks GG (and you too BT for not firing GG in December when it was obviously the thing you should have done)

    • Off the wall

      Cheers to this Joey!
      I’m so emotionally invested in each game, it literally pains me to watch this season play out with GG and Cameron.
      I’ve got all my lucky trinkets for tonight’s game and I banged my head against tree for a win.
      I may have given myself a concussion, but it will be worth it to see postseason!

  • Thunder1

    And when we beat the teal off the Sharks tonight (5-2 and of course Monny scores), things will look a whole lot rosier tomorrow morning. Keep the faith fans… it’s sure a lot better than giving up on the last month of the season!

  • Flames fan since 83

    In 34 years of attending Flames games, I have rarely left before the end of a game. No matter what the score is. I never understand the fan that leaves with a couple of minutes left when the Flames are down by 2. I also don’t get why people leave early when the Flames are winning by a large margin. I guess these folks feel the results are more important than the process.
    I too am frustrated with the coaching But I don’t agree with some posters, that because of this and that, they are turning off and not watching anymore games. It reminds me of the fan that leaves early.
    I say we save the vitriol for coach, managers and players for the end of the season, and get behind our team for the stretch.

    • supra steve

      If I leave a one-sided game early to cut down on the traffic jam that follows each game, it is because I have other things in my life that require my time. I spend more than enough time on the Flames/NHL hockey as it is. You don’t have to agree or understand.

      As for “results” vs. “process”…well this team could use some results right about now.

      • Kevin R

        In a lopsided game, yeah, I find in those situations, win or lose, we stay to the end, cheer a win & sit there & shake our heads on the losses. By the time we head out, 45% of the people have escaped. But if you leave during a 1 goal game or tie game like I’ve seen, I don’t understand & don’t want to, if you know what I mean.

      • Derzie

        People that leave early regularly are not there for the team. They are there for the beer, to be seen, to people watch, to say they went to the game, etc. I’m not talking about the one offs where another commitment calls. I’m talking about the saving 10 minutes of traffic is more important to me than support my sports team and city. Priorities. When you go anywhere in life, you stick it out. Anything less says ‘I don’t care’ or ‘i’m more important than this’. It’s disrespectful to the fans around you and the players playing the game.

    • Kevin R

      Will always pull for Flames to win every game possible. Agree I see too many people leaving even during a tie or 1 goal game. It’s like WTF??? Why even come to the game. I’m sure there are fans who worry more about beating the traffic out than the game in every City. Baffling. But I am a realist. .03% chance of playoffs, yikes. If we don’t win every game from here on, by next week it will begin the mathematical countdown, whether we win or not & FN writers will be posting magic numbers remaining. For me, every game we win & team we can leap frog just means the pick we are giving the Islanders will not be as good. To me, being at this mathematical stage at this point is brutally unacceptable. Sounds like there is going to be some very interesting high profile coaches available this summer. Quenville, Vigneault, Trotz are for starters.
      I think we need an experienced coach with some playoff success/experience to start.

    • Smithwick

      I’ve been going for ten years and feel the Dome is getting more and more quiet. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing, but it would be nice if the fans could help out in creating some home ice advantage – since we’re not big on last change.

  • Off the wall

    Updated postseason results as per Hockey- Reference.com:

    1. Nsh -100%
    2. Wpg – 100
    3. Vgk – 100
    4. Sjs – 89.3
    5.Col- 85.7
    6.Min- 85.1
    7.LA- 84.8
    8.Dal -58.3
    9. Ana-48.1
    10 Stl -28.2
    11. Cal- 20.5

    It doesn’t appear like Tkachuk will be in the lineup tonight. Bad news for us.
    What possible blender GG will display, is beyond me? I’m better at predicting the weather than GG. Does Jankowski get in the lineup, how about Versteeg?
    Or does he use Stewart (please no) or Shore.

    The only thing I know, is that our MVP will be in net. Thank goodness.

    We need a miracle for sure, especially with GG behind the bench. 20.5% of making postseason and my biggest concern is not the players, but the coach.

  • JMK

    I went through an exercise by predicting games and seeing how the standings would look at the end. Went basic with just win or loss and no 3 point games. And was probably optimistic when it came to Flames results; but what I did find interesting is the teams that Calgary were not close to catching were Nashville, Winnipeg, Vegas (no surprises with that 3), Minnesota and Colorado. Teams that did badly and fell out of race by the end were St Louis and Dallas. And the 3 teams that were close to Calgary were SJ, LA and Anaheim. I know it’s been the mantra for a while but it convinced me that starting tonight the 4 games against California teams are more important than ever now. St Louis and Dallas have a pretty tough run to the finish line and so a wildcard spot is not out of reach but Calgary will have to top a California team to get there.

  • The Beej

    They will have to really battle to get in and every needs to commit to 100%. If they are successful this could lead to the formation of an identity they desperately need to create. If they cant do that here then the previous article may be right. They may need to do some soul searching in the off season and the lessons learned may be the best thing for them.

    Can Gulutzan learn from all his mistakes and make a clean break with the past tonight and use the lessons already learned? Can the players finally acknowledge the lessons learned and realize from here on out it is desperate simple hockey they need to play? Its not all on Gulutzan. No more mailing it in for the first 5 minutes. No more mailing it in in the dzone. Eliminate as many turnovers as possible. Yes they need to score more but they will also need to find ways to win games 2-1 or 1-0. Sometimes the offense wont be there. Smith is committed but can the team commit to playing a full 60min every night in front of him? Because thats what it will take. That and a lot of luck.

  • Burnward

    Gots some Edmonton radio this morning…and they’re talking Tavares sign and trade and Calgary.

    If Tavares signs 8 x 10.5…would you trade Backlund, Brodie, Fox + for him?

  • ThisBigMouthIsRight

    One X-factor that seems to be forgotten (until it rears its ugly head) is the Officiating. As we’ve seen form the last Colorado game, there are Officiating crews out there that still hold on tight to the Wideman effect, its not fair and its not right but I’m predicting/or the odds are that will cost the Flames at least 2 of the remaining games they will play maybe more? The point is Officiating is a lot like hitting the goal posts, it could go either way or just seen as bad luck but in the end it can come back to cost you the game. Lets hope there are no Glaring bad games down the stretch… I just wanted to add this ray of sunshine into the conversation.
    Of course all teams will to have to deal with poor calls (except the Ducks) which could have a major impact on all the teams still fighting for a playoff spot. Nothing you can do about it, but its there.

  • FlamesFan27

    So basically, they need to have a series sweep or a 3-1 series lead against “California”. I’m not liking their odds, but I’ll be watching and cheering until they are eliminated.

  • canadian1967

    Our team is VERY average. Check out this table

    https://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/CGY/2018.html#team_stats::none

    The thing out of whack and holding us back is shooting percentage. If we were even League average, we would have 20 more goals for, and those goals would obviously be very helpful in the scheme of things.

    Then if The Flames could hit the net more often (apparently we lead the league in missing the net), while still also getting to the league average shooting% we could maybe be 40+ goals ahead of where we are. That might also be helpful.

    The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. Or, in The Flames case, the answer is blowing past the net without the goalie even needing to make a save.

  • Alberta Ice

    Here’s my take: Glad they are playing top teams upcoming. Any chance of doing anything in the playoffs will be based on the ability to beat the best. If we can’t show, we need to go. But if we can show, and raise it to a high level, then fans have a reason to get optimistic. And if Smith plays like he did against the Oilers, and the team plays like they did against the Oilers (plus a few more goals) then I have reason to hope.

  • The Doctor

    LA is playing really well lately, I’ve ended up catching some of their games lately. Defensively in particular and Quick is looking scary good. Plus they have Jeff Carter back. The only possible silver lining would be maybe they’re due for a swoon. They’ve had some some miracle comebacks late in games recently.

  • Rambo

    Flames Nation: I urge you to have some perspective. Reality is this is playoffs for us. We have an opportunity over the last 11 games to win and getting in. Imagine we are down 2-1 in playoff series, odds against us but we still have a chance. These 11 games will be fun!

    • The Doctor

      They should move to the 3-2-1 point system that they use in IIHF tournament play. But the greedhead owners will probably never go for it because the greedhead owners love parity.