Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Taking a look at what the Calgary Flames’ schedule has in store for them after the All-Star break
26 days ago
The All-Star break isn’t here for all the teams just yet, but the Calgary Flames finished their six-game home streak before the break in a rather close yet victorious fashion. It took only one goal (and a lot of major saves from goaltender Jacob Markstrom) to pull out a win against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has, for some reason, shown the Flames a lot of trouble over the last few seasons.
However, even with that win, they went 2-4-0 on a homestand that was considered extremely vital to the team’s playoff hopes. Now, with a full week off from watching Flames hockey, we’re left to sit and wonder what the next move is and what it should be.
Speaking of sitting and wondering, I decided to take a quick look at the rest of the Flames schedule after the All-Star festivities are concluded. As of now, the Flames have played 49 games and sit with a record of 22-22-5, which by NHL standards is considered .500, although, technically, they’ve lost 27 games total. That total puts them at 49 points, which is good for sixth in the Pacific Division and five points behind the St. Louis Blues (the team they blew a 3-1 lead to over the homestand) and the Nashville Predators in the wild-card race. (The Flames have a game-in-hand on Nashville heading into Wednesday’s games.)
Safe to say that it wasn’t the kind of entrance into a very important gap in the schedule that anyone within the Flames, whether it was the players, coaches, or management, wanted. So, which games coming up after the break are worth really paying attention to? Which ones could have the highest influence on where the Flames finish in the standings? Let’s check out a few.
Feb. 24 @ Edmonton Oilers & Apr. 6 vs. Edmonton Oilers
I don’t think this should be a surprise to anyone, but it’s a base that needs to be covered.
The Oilers are currently 2-0-0 against the Flames this season, one win coming on a major stage at the Heritage Classic and the second coming off a lucky bounce from a shot below the goal line (in a game that, by most metrics, the Flames still deserved to lose). It was evident after that second loss how frustrated the players were by losing to the Oilers once again. Granted, everyone has been losing to them recently, so it’s not just the Flames, but it means more for them, given the history between the two teams and the rivalry. Not to mention, the Oilers are a team that has been searching for that elusive Stanley Cup Final berth for years now, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the primes of their careers. Not only is beating an arch-rival of the utmost importance just for confidence’s sake, but it would also be a four-point swing in the standings as well.
Mar. 4 vs. Seattle Kraken
This game might not feel like it would mean much with just one glance at the schedule, but the date is important because it’s the second-to-last game before the Mar. 8 trade deadline and the last game that the Flames would be able to gain any ground on Pacific Division opponents before truly making a final decision on what to do with their pending unrestricted free agents, that is if they haven’t done that already. The Flames play the Los Angeles Kings at home a week prior as well, so that’s a potential eight point swing, including a four point swing against a team directly in the wild-card race with the Flames.
Mar. 26 @ Chicago Blackhawks
It’s no secret that the Blackhawks have given the Flames significant trouble this year and in years prior for one reason or another. Whether it’s Calgary underestimating them, which they should not be, or just knowing that the Flames struggle in those games and using that confidence and momentum to their advantage, they’ve done their best to keep the Flames down to Earth.
If the Flames really want to make the postseason, they’re going to need to win this game. There’s no excuse for losing to teams at the bottom of the standings consistently if you truly believe the team is playoff-ready, and as of now, the Flames have not shown that against the Blackhawks, which is why this game could end up being another big one down the line.
Every game between Apr. 9-18 (six total games)
I know, I know, that’s a very wide range of games. But, allow me to explain.
In the last week and two days of the season, which is what this span is, the Flames play four away games and two home games. They come in this order: San Jose Sharks (away), Los Angeles Kings (away), Anaheim Ducks (away), Arizona Coyotes (home), Vancouver Canucks (away), and San Jose Sharks (home).
Including the game on the ninth against the Oilers, the Flames play four straight against Pacific Division opponents and seven games straight against Western Conference opponents. Add in the two other games in the month of April, coming against the Ducks and the Winnipeg Jets, and those numbers go up to nine Western Conference teams and seven Pacific Division teams in the last month of the season.
Of course, lots of this depends on the direction that the Flames take with their assets, but even if they sell and they do still contend for a post-season spot, just as the Nashville Predators did last season after selling off a few big names, that last stretch of games (two against teams at the top of the Pacific, three against two teams at the bottom, and one against a team they’re battling for in the wild-card race) is going to be utterly critical to determine the post-season and potentially even the overall draft order.
It’s going to be an interesting end to the 2023-24 season for the Flames, as there are plenty of options to consider and still plenty of schedule left to help decide things. And these games, in particular, are bound to help set the stage for what is to come.
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