Until you’re in, you’re not in. That’s more or less the Calgary Flames’ view of the playoffs. Questions from the media that include the word usually get a shrug or a scowl in return.
But with 17 games remaining, the Flames are in very good position to not only capture a playoff spot but to potentially win the Pacific Division outright.
Here’s a quick rundown of how magic numbers and clinching scenarios work. The Flames have 88 points. When another team’s potential total points are less than 88 points – meaning that team cannot possibly tie the Flames in the standings – the Flames are guaranteed to finish ahead of them. For the sake of this exercise, we’re assuming that the Flames lose all tiebreakers and so they need to finish with more points than the teams chasing them.
For the record, the six tiebreakers are:
- Regulation wins
- Regulation and overtime wins
- Wins (of any kind)
- Points earned head-to-head against other tied teams. (If they’ve played an odd number of games against each other, the earliest extra home game will be dropped.)
- Goal differential
- Goals for
Clinching (at least) a wildcard spot
We’re simplifying here, as Vegas could also get the wildcard spot because they have basically the same situation as Winnipeg. But for this exercise, we’re looking at the non-divisional option. Winnipeg could get to 104 points, so the Flames’ magic number to finish ahead of them is 8.5 (Flames wins and/or Winnipeg losses).
The Flames are 1-1-0 against the Jets this season, but their loss was in the extra home game that will be dropped for tiebreaker purposes. They meet Winnipeg in the regular season finale on Apr. 29, but by that point it seems unlikely that it will have value for this tiebreaker.
Clinching a divisional spot
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter has frequently commented that both wildcard spots will probably go to Central Division teams. If that’s true, then all the Flames can do to cement their playoff credentials is guarantee themselves a top three finish by staying ahead of Vegas, the fourth-place Pacific team. Like Winnipeg, Vegas can get to 104 points, so the Flames’ magic number to finish ahead of them is 8.5 (Flames wins and/or Vegas losses).
The Flames are 1-1-0 against the Golden Knights this season, but their win was in the extra home game that will be dropped for tiebreaker purposes. They play each other in Calgary on Apr. 14 to finish the season series.
Clinching first round home ice
Okay, let’s say the Flames clinch a divisional spot. If they finish top two, they’re guaranteed home ice advantage in the first round. Right now, the third-place Pacific team is Edmonton. They can get a maximum of 109 points, so the Flames’ magic number to finish ahead of them is 11 (Flames wins and/or Edmonton losses).
The season series ended up tied at two wins apiece, so if it gets that far in tiebreakers it would push to goal differential (where the Flames have a big edge).
Clinching the division
Finally, the Flames could clinch the Pacific Division and have home ice advantage in the first two rounds potentially. They would need to be guaranteed to finish ahead of the second-place Pacific team, Los Angeles. The Kings can get to 111 points, so the Flames’ magic number to finish ahead of them is 12 (Flames wins and/or Kings losses).
The Flames and Kings face each other twice before the end of the season, and Calgary’s win in Los Angeles earlier this season will be wiped out for tiebreaker purposes. So right now, their head-to-head record for these purposes are a blank slate.
In short: it’s 8.5 wins (and/or Vegas or Winnipeg losses) to clinch a playoff spot, and 12 wins (and/or Los Angeles losses) to clinch the division.
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