A brief history of Calgary Flames clinching playoff spots
Photo credit:Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike11 months ago
The Calgary Flames are on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. They may have whiffed on a chance to do on on Thursday night against Vegas, but they’re still just a single point away from punching their ticket.
When and how the Flames have qualified for the playoffs over the past 20 years has varied – it’s only happened nine times in that span – and how the team has fared after they’ve clinched a playoff spot has usually fed directly into their post-seasons success… or lack thereof.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane!
In 2004, the Flames clinched on March 31 with a 1-0 home win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 80. They split their final two games, then went on a lengthy playoff run that saw them win three playoff rounds against three division winners before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final.
(I’m contractually obligated to state that it was in.)
The Flames basically had to play playoff-style hockey to get in and the two-game breather after clinching didn’t do much to undo their good habits.
The Flames captured the Northwest Division in 2006, which happened quite late in the season. They didn’t even officially clinch a playoff spot until April 8 (Game 78), with a 3-2 overtime loss against Vancouver that gave them the single point they needed to get the X next to their name.
The Flames went 2-1-1 in their final four games after clinching and didn’t really let their foot off the gas pedal. However, two of their last four games were against Anaheim. And then they played a first round playoff series against Anaheim, eventually losing in seven games. Playing nine out of 11 games against a single team is a really unique circumstance. (Six of those nine games were determined by just a single goal.)
The Flames qualified for the 2007 playoffs on April 7 (Game 81), but they qualified with a Colorado loss. They ended up losing their final four games of that season, then lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
They ended up losing eight of their final 10 games.
The Flames qualified for the 2008 playoffs on April 3 (Game 81), qualifying with a loss by Vancouver. (The Flames had a chance to qualify on their own that night, but they lost to Minnesota.)
The Flames clobbered Vancouver 7-1 in their final regular season game, then lost to San Jose in a seven game series in the first round. They had a 2-1 series lead, then dropped two one-goal games to swing the momentum back to the Sharks.
The Flames qualified for the 2009 playoffs on April 2 (Game 77) with a 2-1 win over Dallas. But this was the season where the Flames hit injury troubles late in the season – too late in the season to use the long-term injury reserve to get cap relief – and so they played shorthanded for each of their final five games of the season. (This was under the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, which did not allow teams to bring up players after playing shorthanded; if you ran out of cap room, you were completely out of luck and had to limp your way to the end of the season.)
They went 2-3-0 in those shorthanded games, then lost to Chicago in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
The 2015 Flames had to play playoff hockey to make the post-season dance, though they eventually ran out of steam when they came up against better, deeper teams in the playoffs. They battled their way into the playoffs, qualifying on April 9 with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings.
The Flames ended up beating Vancouver in the first round – they admittedly got a favourable first round match-up, but they were decidedly the better team and deserve credit for the decisive win – before losing to the Ducks in five games in the second round.
The 2017 Flames qualified for the playoffs on March 31 with a 5-2 home win over San Jose. They had four games remaining and went 1-3-0 in those four games.
The challenge for Flames was this: they played Anaheim twice in their four late-season games and lost both games. Then they faced Anaheim in the first round and got swept. Anaheim was very much their kryptonite, but the Flames also lost seven of their final eight regular season and playoff games… including all six against the Ducks.
The Flames qualified for the playoffs in 2019 quite early. They qualified on St. Patrick’s Day after Minnesota lost in overtime; they could’ve qualified the prior night, but they lost to Winnipeg. The Flames went 6-4-0 in their final 10 games after clinching, but hit a roadblock in the form of a Colorado Avalanche squad that was the hottest team in hockey at that point. Colorado had to battle their way into the playoffs over the final month of their season while the Flames… did not.
The Avalanche dispatched the Flames in a gentleman’s sweep (five games) to end their season.
The 2020 scenario was weird, in that the Flames were a borderline playoff team… then the season got paused for several months due to a worldwide pandemic… then the season got rebooted in a bubble in Edmonton.
The Flames qualified for the 2020 playoffs after beating an injury-riddled Winnipeg Jets team in the qualifying round, only to lose Matthew Tkachuk to a concussion early in their first round series against the Dallas Stars. The Tkachuk-less Flames lost to Dallas in six games, losing the final three games after going up 2-1 after the first three games.
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