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Is Game 4 against Dallas a must-win for the Calgary Flames?

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
Folks, in sports coverage we throw around a lot of terms that can tend to be misused. But heading into Game 4 between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars on Monday night, we must ask a simple question. Based upon the club’s history and NHL playoff history more broadly, is Game 4 a “must-win” for the Flames?
(Spoiler: Yeah, probably.)
The Flames have been down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series on eight occasions. We’ve gone ahead and sorted out the outcomes:
  • Lost in five games: 1983 against Edmonton, 1986 against Montreal, 2019 against Colorado
  • Lost in six games: 1981 against Minnesota, 1987 against Winnipeg, 1990 against Los Angeles
  • Lost in seven games: 1984 against Edmonton, 1991 against Edmonton
A couple times the Flames battled back to make the series interesting, but all eight times they went down 3-1 in a series they lost that series.
Historically, league-wide, teams that are down 3-1 in a series end up losing 90.8% of the time…. which tracks with the Flames franchise’s results so far.
The Flames have been tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven series on 15 occasions:
  • Won in six games: 1989 against Montreal, 2004 against Detroit, 2004 against San Jose
  • Won in seven games: 1986 against Edmonton, 1986 against St. Louis, 1989 against Vancouver, 2004 against Vancouver,
  • Lost in six games: 1993 against Los Angeles, 2007 against Detroit, 2009 against Chicago, 2020 against Dallas
  • Lost in seven games: 1995 against San Jose, 2004 against Tampa Bay, 2006 against Anaheim, 2008 against San Jose
As you can see, the results are fairly mixed – and as an aside, most of the team’s best playoff series wins have involved a 2-2 tie at some point. League-wide, results for teams tied 2-2 in a series are split evenly at 50/50, so the Flames results track right alongside everybody else’s.
If the Flames win Game 4, history suggests they have about a 50% chance of advancing. If they lose Game 4, history suggests their chances are about 9.2%. So from a probability standpoint it’s not a must-win game necessarily, but it’s not much of a stretch: their chances of survival in the post-season are five times larger if they win than if they lose.

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