When the Calgary Flames called up Spencer Foo from the minors on Mar. 29, the writing was on the wall. Sure, it was “mathematically possible” for the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs, but it was incredibly unlikely.
But due to some unlikely circumstances, the Heat are in a position to potentially qualify for the playoffs on the final game of their regular season.
You may recall that the Flames called up Jon Gillies from Stockton back on Mar. 26 and sent David Rittich there in his place. The Flames were mathematically eliminated later that day and the idea was to (a) give Gillies a shot in the NHL and (b) get Rittich to the farm so he could jump-start the Heat and push them towards the playoffs.
The Heat were spanked 6-0 in Rittich’s return to the AHL, losing a one-sided game to the lowly Cleveland Monsters, and so it appeared that the playoffs probably weren’t in the cards. Foo’s call-up wasn’t all that controversial because a Calder Cup berth was such a long shot. The Heat had to win several games and the teams ahead of them had to lose several games.
An improbable race
While the Heat have gone 4-4-0 since Rittich’s demotion – two of their four wins have come since Gillies was returned to the minors – the San Diego Gulls have gone 2-6-0 while the San Jose Barracuda have caught up from behind with a 5-2-0 record.
Here’s a quick primer on how the standings have changed since Mar. 26.
Simultaneously, San Jose went on a run and closed the gap with Stockton from below while San Diego started to lose a lot and fell down to meet the Heat from above. As a result, there’s a three-way race heading into the final Pacific Division games of the season for the final Pacific Division playoff spot. Stockton’s managed to keep pace and stay in the race, despite missing Andrew Mangiapane for the last several weeks as well as being without Morgan Klimchuk and Hunter Shinkaruk this weekend.
A recipe for chaos
The last Pacific Division #CalderCup playoff spot comes down to Saturday night.#SJvsSTK (9:00 ET) – Winner stays alive, loser is eliminated.#SDvsTUC (10:05 ET) – SD clinches with a point. Otherwise, SJ/STK winner clinches.
— AHL Communications (@AHLPR) April 14, 2018
So here’s the gist: San Diego is sitting in the fourth and final Pacific Division playoff spot with 76 points (and a .567 points percentage). Stockton and San Jose are tied in fifth place with 74 points apiece (and identical .552 points percentages).
- If Stockton wins in any way AND San Diego loses in regulation, they’ll both finish with 76 points (and identical .559 points percentages) and Stockton will finish in the final playoff spot due to head-to-head tie-breakers.
- In any other scenario, Stockton doesn’t make the playoffs.