The Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday night. For the third time in five seasons, the Calgary Flames will take part. Much of the rest of the playoff picture is in flux.
The Flames have clinched many things
With one game remaining in the regular season, the Flames cannot move anymore in the standings. They have captured:
- A playoff spot
- Top spot in the Pacific Division
- Top spot in the Western Conference
So long as they advance, they’ll have home ice advantage in each of the first three playoff rounds.
Western playoff match-ups
Here’s roughly how the playoff matches are lining up in the West.
Calgary [P1] vs. Colorado [WC2]
San Jose [P2] vs. Vegas [P3] (locked in)
Nashville [C1] vs. Dallas [WC1]
Winnipeg [C2] vs. St. Louis [C3]
If Dallas gets a point on Friday (against Chicago) or Saturday (against Minnesota) or Colorado loses in any form on Saturday (against San Jose), then the Flames will play Colorado.
The first three spots in the Central Division are glorious chaos which will be decided on Saturday:
- Nashville (98 points, 42 regulation/overtime wins) faces Chicago
- Winnipeg (97 points, 44 ROW) faces Arizona
- St. Louis (97 points, 42 ROW) faces Vancouver
A Nashville win makes life simple. Any other result and things could get really complicated. Anybody could win that division.
While not terribly relevant to the Flames (… yet), the East still has a bit of intrigue left as well. Here’s how things stand right now.
Tampa Bay [A1] vs. Columbus [WC2]
Boston [A2] vs. Toronto [A3] (locked in)
Washington [M1] vs. Carolina [WC1]
New York Islanders [M2] vs. Pittsburgh [M3]
The final playoff spot is between Columbus and Montreal. Columbus can clinch with a win on Friday (against the New York Rangers) or Saturday (against Ottawa). Montreal would need to win on Saturday (against Toronto) while needing Columbus to lose out in order to make it in. Columbus and Montreal both have 94 points and can get a maximum of 98 and 96, respectively; in the West, Colorado can only get a maximum of 92 points, and Dallas, 95 points.
Montreal cannot leapfrog Carolina (97 points), but Columbus can, if Carolina loses on Saturday (against Philadelphia). One of Montreal, Columbus, or Carolina will play Tampa Bay.
If Carolina wins on Saturday and Pittsburgh loses (against the New York Rangers), Carolina will leapfrog Pittsburgh, and clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division. If Pittsburgh wins on Saturday they will clinch a divisional playoff spot.
If Pittsburgh wins on Saturday and the New York Islanders lose (against the Capitals), Pittsburgh will leapfrog the Islanders, and clinch second seed in the Atlantic Division. If the Islanders win on Saturday they will clinch home ice for the first round.
Got all that?
One last quirk: Boston and Calgary both have 107 points with 81 games played. Calgary has 50 ROW and Boston has 47. If Calgary wins on Saturday (against Edmonton) or Boston loses (against Tampa Bay), they will clinch second overall in the league. If Calgary loses and Boston wins on Saturday, Boston will clinch second overall in the league. The Flames control their destiny when it comes to league-wide standings and, should Calgary and Boston meet in the Stanley Cup Final, the Flames could be the ones who end up with home ice.