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The 2019 Playoff Chase: The chase begins

The All-Star Break is over. Over the next nine weeks, 16 National Hockey League teams will punch their tickets for the postseason while another 15 teams will slink off into the ether. The Calgary Flames have 31 games remaining. How do their playoff prospects look?

Chasing a playoff spot

The Flames are in a pretty good spot in the Western Conference.

Team Pts W ROW Pct. Chances
FLAMES 71 33 33 .696 100%
Jets 66 32 30 .660 100%
Sharks 65 29 29 .625 99.7%
Predators 64 30 29 .615 99.6%
Golden Knights 62 29 28 .596 97.8%
Wild 55 26 25 .550 72.5%
Stars 52 24 24 .531 67.6%
Avalanche 52 22 22 .520 64.2%
Canucks 52 23 22 .510 32.0%

(Playoff spot odds throughout these tables via Sports Club Stats.)

The Flames will clinch a playoff berth when the ninth-place team (currently Vancouver) cannot pass them mathematically. Presently they’re 19 points up on the Canucks. The Canucks have 31 games left and 62 possible points remaining, so it’ll be awhile before the Flames can secure a playoff spot entirely. That said, they have a massive cushion right now.

The Athletic’s projections right now have the playoff cutline in the Western Conference at around 89 points, so nine Flames wins should be about enough to clinch.

Chasing a divisional title

As with the playoff spot race, the Flames are in good shape as they pursue their first divisional title since 2006.

Team Pts W ROW Pct. Chances
FLAMES 71 33 33 .696 92.2%
Sharks 65 29 29 .625 6.2%
Golden Knights 62 29 28 .596 1.6%
Canucks 52 23 22 .510 0.0%

The Flames would clinch when the second place team, currently the Sharks, can’t catch them. Obviously that’s quite a ways away. For now, they’re six points up on the Sharks with a game in hand.

As Pat noted in his piece yesterday, the Flames have a pair of games remaining against both the Sharks and Golden Knights. They’re masters of their own destinies at this point and if they can pile up points within their own division, they’ll likely win it.

The Athletic’s divisional cutline looks to be around 102 points, so a 0.500 Flames squad over the last 31 games has a pretty good shot at capturing the division.

Chasing top spot in the West

Team Pts W ROW Pct. Chances
FLAMES 71 33 33 .696 74.1%
Jets 68 33 31 .667 18.5%
Sharks 65 29 29 .625 3.6%
Predators 64 30 29 .615 3.0%
Golden Knights 62 29 28 .596 0.7%

The Flames have a lead in the Western Conference, though it’s somewhat tenuous. They lead the Jets by just three points, so while they’re in a good spot things are by no means sewn up.

The Athletic’s projections have 105 points about enough to clinch top spot in the West.

Chasing a Presidents’ Trophy

Team Pts W ROW Pct. Chances
Lightning 76 37 34 .760 79.5%
FLAMES 71 33 33 .696 15.9%
Jets 68 33 31 .667 2.3%
Sharks 65 29 29 .625 0.2%
Predators 64 30 29 .615 0.2%

It might seem weird to think about, but the Flames are just five points back of the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning for first overall in the NHL. They’re within striking distance and the Flames play the Lightning on Feb. 12 in Tampa. If they can stay hot and win against a tough team in a tough building, they might be able to reel them in.

That said, the Lightning might need to slow down a bit for the Flames to catch them. The Athletic’s projections have them with 119 points at the end of the regular season.

  • Skylardog

    89 is such a low number to be a cut line for a playoff spot. You have to figure a couple of teams will step up and make a drive for a spot, raising that number into the more traditional 94 point area or above. After the top 5 in the West, look for Minny, Dallas, and Colorado to lock in a solid run. It would not surprise me if St Louis is in the mix at the end. The rest really have some weaknesses, but maybe a team, like Vancouver can hold it together nd go on a run. I still say the last spot has 94 points (although maybe 9th does have 89).

    We are really going to get a feel for how good the Flames are as they come out of this break. Layoffs have been the team’s Achilles heel for so long. This year will be different. They will come out running.

    Last year’s Washington game in Washington was a catalyst for the Capitals. They came in struggling and we embarrassed them 4-1. They sat outside of a playoff spot after that night, in 9th in the East, just 3 points from being 13th, having played way more games than Carolina, NYR, Philly, and Boston who all trailed them but were easily in striking distance. To say they were struggling would be an understatement.

    They would go 39-14-6 after that game, finishing first in the Met. We all know how that ended.

    Our win appeared to have had the same effect on them as “The 9-1” did earlier in our season. I really, really, really, like that pattern for the Flames.

    • freethe flames

      An example of what you are talking about might be the Flyers; many had written them off and they were seen as sellers but now that they are getting good NHL goaltending they are picking up points; maybe they think they are now in the hunt for a wildcard position.

      • Skylardog

        I think Philly is too far back this late in the season. They would have to go something like 21-8-2 in their last 31 to get to 94 and pass 4 teams. Don’t see that happening, especially if they start to trade away assets. 94 may not even be enough.

        • freethe flames

          You are probably right, but that does not mean that they might think they are still in it and might become reluctant to make trades util they get what they want.

    • Albertabeef

      Blah blah blah Pittsburgh 9-1 blah blah blah. It”s getting old. Besides that is not the game that snapped the Flames back to life. It was actually the 5-4 loss to Washington the next game that sparked this team. But everyone thinks it was the 9-1 game lol.

        • Albertabeef

          Well whatever(I may have had the TB final score in my head), I just remember a shoot out loss. But that was the game that woke the boys up. Flames had lost 4 of 5 at that point and three straight. They were starting to repeat that before Xmas and snubbed it after Xmas thankfully. If two three game losing streaks are all we have this season that is a great improvement.

  • freethe flames

    They need to play good hockey. I am less concerned about winning the President’s trophy that I am about winning the conference. I think the last time the winner of the PT won the Stanley Cup was 2012/13 Hawks. Not needing to play Vegas or the Sharks would be a good start to the first round.

    On another topic “Willis” reported that the lines yesterday were the normal first line, 3m reunited, Bennett/Janko/Neal back together(we need a nick name for them “The Hope Line” in that we hope they catch fire) and Mangiapane with Ryan and Hathaway. Czzzzarnik as the healthy scratch. (zzzz is intentional as I have fallen asleep waiting for this guy to live up to the preseason hype over his signing).

    • MDG1600

      To really be a competitive force in the playoffs I feel that the Bennett/Janko/Neal line is the key. If they can develop some confidence and chemistry in both ends of the ice it will make it tremendously challenging for the opposition to gameplan against Calgary.

      • Kzak

        Agreed, it’s all about a third line and you don’t have to look any further than the team we’re playing tonight: their third line centre Lars Eller led the league in GWG in last season’s playoffs. ‘Nuff said.

    • Fat Tony

      At the first of the season I would have been happy with just making the playoffs, A division title wasn’t on my mind. Now that it’s there for the taking I feel nothing is out of reach. Lets be greedy and try to take it all Muahahahaha

    • Albertabeef

      Never underestimate the powers of the Hockey Gods. First overall is in our reach, we just have to believe. Spin counter clockwise five times, after the first spin start clapping three times only while screaming “Presidents Trophy” and it will be ours. This must be done today before tonight’s game or the spell wont work lol.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    If anybody can get the guys charged up for tonight’s game is Peters. After this kind of layoff any team will have trouble with their passes, breakouts, etc. they’re just going to be out of sync. Hopefully they don’t give up a couple early goals.
    But, it’s sure good to see them playing again.

    • freethe flames

      While it is Peter’s job as a coach to get them fired up it is also the leaders on this teams job to make sure they are ready to play. The key core guys have seen this return to action become the “death march” and it is up to them to have learnt from this mistake. Both teams will be rusty and both teams went into the break going in different directions; we were riding high(but not playing our best hockey) and the Caps were struggling big time. We need to jump on them early and that is on the players.

  • Skylardog

    Haven’t seen a Flames game since Jan 18, and to be honest, that game was just playing in the background as I packed.

    I suspect that I am almost through the withdrawls as I didn’t even post a single comment on here yesterday. many of you, I am sure, were grateful.

    Bring It On!
    GFG

  • Off the wall

    I’d love for the Flames to finish 1st in the Conference.

    Home ice advantage is crucial to all the hard work that has gone into this season.

    Our biggest challenge, I believe will be our own Conference. If we can manage to make it through that, I think we have a great chance at being in the Stanley Cup final.

    I don’t think we need to worry about the President’s Trophy.
    I want to be the underdog against Tampa again.

    Only this time we’ll have reviewable goals!!

  • Manginasal

    Pat Steinberg @Fan960Steinberg
    Mike Smith starting for Calgary tonight in Washington. Braden Holtby goes for the Caps. Coach Peters says Rittich likely goes Sunday in Carolina. 

    Peters points to puckhandling as a big reason why Smith goes tonight. 9-2-0, 0.903 SV% in his last 11 starts. #Flames

    • freethe flames

      It might also be that Ovi is not playing. Here is a question for Flames fans; if Smith can duplicate the .903 save % over his next 10 starts would people be okay with him as the back up.

      • Cfan in Van

        I’m OK with it, because I’m convinced they won’t bring in another goalie. Prepare ourselves to accept it, because it’s happening. Hopefully Smith had a nice rest.

        • freethe flames

          The only way I see them changing goalies is if something happens throughout the organization. If they could swap Gilles for someone more NHL ready I would not be surprised. Now who that would be I have no idea.

          • Off the wall

            I don’t know why we’re hung up on Smiths SV%. His first quarter was really bad, his overall numbers reflect that.

            Yet, here he is sitting at 14 wins, the same number as Howard who has played 9 more games than Smith. Yet we want to trade for Howard?

            Here’s some goalies with less wins than Smith and more games played:
            Varlamov, Rask, Greiss, Koskinen and DeSmith to name a few. They all must be terrible goalies, right?

            Yeah, Smith is just fine as a backup…

          • Derzie

            For OTW: ‘wins’ are basically Corsi for goalies. Pretty low value stat. Teams win with bad goalies and lose with great ones. Save % and GAA are the leading indicators.

        • Jourflamesfan

          I’m fine with Smith tonight.

          He hasn’t played since Jan 18th, and may not get a chance to play again until Feb 14th in Florida.

          After tonight we play:
          @ Carolina
          vs San Jose
          @ Vancouver
          @ Tampa

          Which could all be Rittich starts. Need to play Smith whenever possible, and a winless in 7, minus Ovechkin, off the bye week Capitals makes sense to me.

      • freethe flames

        OTW: I’m only concerned about his last 11 games save %and his next 10 game played save %. His recent winning percentage is also extremely telling to me as it suggests that the “Team” has gotten by his bad goals against. He still lets in stinkers(maybe no every game but frequently enough) but this team seems to have found a way to get over them.

        It’s like I am wanting to see Neal shoot closer to his career average in the last 30 game; if tha happens then this team is better. It won’t significantly change his season shooting percentage but it will mean the team gets better.

        • Off the wall

          Yeah, sorry if that came across too abruptly Free.

          I understand the question marks surrounding his SV%.

          He’s winning games for us.
          I believe that’s all we can ask of him as a backup..😉

          • freethe flames

            OTW not a problem. I know that he and Neal get a lot of hate on this site and I’m one of them (sometimes they deserve it) but I’m actually trying to find a silver lining in them and having a sliver of hope that they have turned some of their issues around. Still more of a pessimist on them; they still need to prove the improvement on a game by game basis to this fan.

      • Em Durp Em Hrudey

        Im ok with him now. Every goalie…EVERY GOALIE goes through rough patches. He is a beast, he is a competitor, he will be great. Slumps for a goalie are mental blocks, when we figure it out everything becomes right in the world again. I believe he figured it out.

  • freethe flames

    The “Chase Continues”; part of this chase will be what BT does around the TDL. Some of this will be based upon what other teams do especially the 4 primary Western Conference presumed contenders. All the “insiders” believe that all 4 other teams will be adding and looking to add significant pieces; will this force BT to do likewise. Right now the Flames need to take advantage of their game in hand and beat the Caps but don’t be surprised to see a trade or two down the road that adds to the depth of this team.

    • freethe flames

      So on this topic of adding depth to the club I wanted to bring up a recent article I read. Cordell on hockeybuzz suggested 4 names he thinks the Flames should look to add as depth defenders. I seldom put much stock in Cordell’s writings but I sometimes read them. Here are the 4 names he presented: Ben Lovejoy NJ 34 RHD currently on the injured list, Freddy Claesson 26 LHD currently on the injured list, Nick Jensen 28 RHD Detroit all 3 off these will be UFA’s at the end of the season. The 4th name he puts forward is Mark Pysyk 27 RHD out of Florida with 1 year left on a $2.73m cap hit. To be honest I have not followed these guys teams in great detail so I would love to hear others takes on them.

      • Kevin R

        Todd is off the mark on this in my opinion. We did our depth moves already last summer. We have young guys in Stockton than more than capable to stepping up in limited roles on the big team. We have a guy like Czarnik being healthy scratched again tonight. There is no defendable deal we can make in the nets that doesnt undermine Riitch who has gotten us to where we are & Smith is a backup who is finally getting used to that role in his head.

        We either go big or do nothing in my view. We target one of the elite rentals out there or we target a big functional presence for lower in the line up.

        • Off the wall

          1,000 cheers Kevin!

          I’m of the same views. Toronto has set the tone for trades. It’s going to be a buyers’ market, I believe.

          Treliving will be patient, until he finds the right fit. Then he will strike, like a python seeking his prey. Or something like that…

          If we land an elite rental, I’d be happy with that. If Treliving decides it’s too expensive, then I trust he’ll do nothing.

          I’d love to see just ONE trade that would put us over the top-
          A Centre or a RW who could fill the position of being a playmaker.

          Yeah, that’d be sweet!

          • oilcanboyd

            If Tre is patient the best deal he will get will be on TDL for a pending UFA if teams don’t get their top asking price. Beggars can’t be choosers; if they are they lose a player for nothing!

        • freethe flames

          Who are these depth defenders that you speak off being on the Heat. Outside of Valimaki I see no one. There best defender for most of the season AOM does not even have a ELC.
          I do agree we have depth forwards with the Heat and don’t think we need to add there.

          I still think BT is looking at a forward who can play more up the line up.

          • Kevin R

            Our rookies have played great all year, no reason to expect them to regress completely as we get to playoffs. Prout is ok #7 but the wildcard depth is Stone. If he is looking at coming back even in March, why expend assets on a depth defender when you get one for free? With Stone, that gives us 9 D, crap thats more than enough.

  • Sven

    I was initially of the “not broken / dont fix it ” mind set

    But the Flames are being dramatically driven by the front of the bus

    The Flames top line contributed 17G, 28A and a +10 in January
    which was good enough for the 4th most productive line in the league over the last 10 games

    The 3M line chipped in with a 14G, 15A and + 25 which was a 13th place rank

    so having two of the top 13 lines league wide is kinda nice

    but

    the maligned threesome of Bennett, Neal and Jankowski posted a 6G , 9A and a -4 last month
    placing them around 100th in league wide trios

    and Ryan, Czarnik, Hathaway, Mangiapane and Dube have added a single goal and 7 assists with a +2 in the 34 games they skated in during January

    so now Im kinda thinking we may just have room for Ferland or Dzingel

    • withachance

      We shouldnt expect the third line to drive the bus, we should just expect the depth players to contribute when the top guys are having off nights, which they’ve been doing all season long. Upgrades are always nice but fans should temper expectations about depth. They’re depth lines for a reason – teams cant have all top 6 forwards, so we shouldnt treat the 3rd and 4th lines as such.

      Bennett – Janko – Neal are 100th, kind of puts them average for 3rd lines league wide no? Im not expecting them to produce like the 1st or 2nd line, just be the league average and the team will be fine. Upgrades are welcome of course, and expect BP tinkering throughout the rest of the season

      • Sven

        observation accepted

        but their performance of “100ish” is below average in a 31 team league
        (and they are more like 115-130 ish truth be told)

        and likely significantly below average on a team second in NHL scoring and second in plus/minus league wide

        and sure – Calgarys D core is stellar
        but the D core crushed line 3 in January on the score sheet chipping in 11G, 29A and a + 25

        # Team Dzingel

    • Derzie

      12th in the league in secondary scoring isn’t bad. The NHL: in general has poor production from depth lines. League too watered down. Only so many great players to go around.

  • Manginasal

    Kevin Weekes @KevinWeekes
    *Breaking News* As per sources 
    @penguins Trade Sheahan ,Brassard, 2nd & 2 4th Rd Picks in 2019 to @FlaPanthersPR for Bjugstad & McCann. @NHL @NHLNetwork #HockeyTwitter

  • oilcanboyd

    Darren Haynes on why Smitty starts tonight and Rittich against Canes: “Rittich just stopped 33 of 35 to beat Carolina 10 days ago. Smith is 3-1-1 with a .947 SV% in his last five starts against Washington.”

    Makes senes to me!

    • Manginasal

      1rst star of the month of January.

      FIRST STAR – JOHNNY GAUDREAU, LW, CALGARY FLAMES

      Gaudreau ranked second in the NHL with 8-10—18 in 11 games to propel the Flames (33-13-5, 71 points) to a 9-1-1 January and into first place in the Western Conference. Gaudreau found the scoresheet in all but his final appearance of the month, extending his point streak to 11 contests dating to Dec. 31 (10-12—22) – the longest by a Calgary player since Kristian Huselius posted a 15-game run from Jan. 9 – Feb. 10, 2007 (10-11—21). Gaudreau registered six multi-point performances in January, including 1-3—4 to open the month (Jan. 2 at DET) – his second straight four-point effort (also Dec. 31 vs. SJS: 2-2—4) and the eighth such outing of his career. He also scored in seven different contests, highlighted by his team-best sixth winning goal of the campaign Jan. 2 at DET. The 25-year-old Salem, N.J., native – who was the League’s ‘Second Star’ of December – sits fourth in the NHL with 29-44—73 in 51 total games this season, also sharing fifth place in assists and sixth place in goals.