The Calgary Flames need to take advantage of the Winnipeg Jets’ recent struggles
Photo credit:Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
8 days ago
The Calgary Flames are six points out of a wild card spot with the regular season slowly winding down. They have 16 games remaining, and their only way to make the post-season is through the second wild card spot, which the Winnipeg Jets of the Central Division currently hold.
Despite the bad loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames have recently had some wins against teams that have caused them trouble in 2022-23. Beating the Dallas Stars, the team leading the Central Division, and Minnesota Wild, who had just shut them out less than a week prior, should give a team confidence moving forward. Those are the kind of games that are extremely important down the stretch.
However, even though their schedule is one of the easiest ones in the NHL moving forward (31st out of 32 according to Tankathon), it only spells disaster if you can’t beat the teams at the bottom of the standings.
With those games against opponents lower in the standings comes the expectation to string some wins together, and with a team like the Jets faltering, it means potentially taking over their spot in the standings as the second wild card. Even though Winnipeg won a big game 5-4 in overtime against the Florida Panthers on Friday evening, the time after the All-Star break has not been kind. They hold a record of 5-7-2 since Feb. 11, including some losses to teams in the same territory as the Ducks.
Making up six points in the standings is not an easy feat. The Flames have had tons of trouble stringing together more than three wins in a row, but if they’re serious about making the post-season, that is what it will take. They have the talent, but the switch needs to be flipped at this point without any hesitation.
Only one or two players have accomplished that feat to this point, and that’s Jacob Markstrom with the possible addition of Tyler Toffoli, who has also been a consistent contributor all season. Markstrom stepped up after head coach Darryl Sutter made it known how important he was to this team’s run toward the playoffs, and Toffoli won the game in Dallas and won the game in Minnesota with two clutch goals. Now, it’s time for some other big-money players to step up.
All season, Jonathan Huberdeau hasn’t been close to what he should be, and neither has Nazem Kadri. That horse has already been beaten to death. And as much fun as Jakob Pelletier has been, plus his positive impact in the top six, he also needs to start putting up numbers on the scoresheet to go along with his solid analytics.
Finally, Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund have a combined 10 points in their last 10 games, which might not sound terrible, but arguably the best scorer on the team, Lindholm, in particular, should be better than 4 points total in his last 10 games.
All of the players I listed are key to Calgary’s success. To expect all of them to turn things on at this point would be unrealistic. It hasn’t happened all year, and I don’t expect it to happen now. However, I would expect even one or two or maybe even three of those players to try and elevate their game to push this team as far as they can, especially while the team they’re chasing is very up and down. If they can’t, management should look at the pieces on the roster and evaluate what went wrong, but they should also assess what kind of message that sends about the coaching staff.
Nonetheless, in their recent struggles, the Jets are catchable, and the Flames control their destiny at this point. Their schedule is giving them a chance at redemption. Whether or not they take it is the question.
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