The Calgary Flames’ roller-coaster 2022–23 season continues. When things were starting to look rough for the Flames playoff hopes, they shocked us all and won back-to-back games against the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild—the latter involved their first shutout of the season. The math to make the playoffs definitely still isn’t on their side, but it isn’t impossible to make the playoffs.
The Western Conference race looks like it’s down to three teams for the final wild card spot: the current placeholder the Winnipeg Jets, the Nashville Predators, and the Calgary Flames. Currently, the Winnipeg Jets have a points percentage of 0.577, the Predators at 0.566, and the Flames at 0.546. It looked like the Jets were a lock for a top three playoff spot in the Central, but they have drastically fallen off, bringing Nashville and Calgary slightly back into the race. Winnipeg lost again last night, sparking more playoff hope from Flames fans, as they are now only four points back of them with equal games played.
Since January 9, the Jets have an overall record of 10–13–2 (0.440). In that same timeframe, the Predators have a record of 13–9–1 (0.587), and the Flames have a record of 10–9–5 (0.521).
Remaining strength of schedule
The image below, courtesy of Tankathon.com, displays the difficulty of schedules remaining this season.
As we can see, Nashville and Winnipeg have the sixth and 14th hardest schedules remaining, respectively. Calgary finds themselves all the way down at the bottom with the absolute easiest schedule remaining. Easy games don’t mean anything if you can’t win them, which the Flames have shown they’ve struggled with throughout the season.
So, Calgary has to prove they can actually win these games against weaker opponents, but the odds are in their favour. Playing six total games against the Ducks, Blackhawks, and Sharks is huge, as those teams are designed to be fighting for the lottery over a playoff spot.
Playoff chance models
The playoff chance model I use is included below. If you aren’t already a subscriber to HockeyViz.com, I highly recommend it, as Micah Blake McCurdy does fantastic work creating analytical visualizations that help the viewer further understand the game. It is certainly my go-to resource. As you can see, Calgary took a massive dip over the past couple weeks, but have rebounded a bit with their wins on Monday and Tuesday. Winnipeg has fallen off from over a 90% guarantee to 65.2% on Wednesday, and they continue to fall.
Another playoff model used by many is courtesy of MoneyPuck.com. It is much higher on the Flames making the playoffs, giving them just under a 50% chance. Their model also likes them a decent amount, giving them a 4.6% chance at the Stanley Cup, even though they don’t currently lie in a playoff spot. I’d have to guess that is due to how Calgary’s roster is built, along with the fact the Western Conference is completely wild open.
Playoffs are still within reach
The math isn’t great. But, there’s a chance. If they keep having performances like these last couple games, the playoffs could be in sight. This Jets team is struggling mightily right now, so Calgary has every chance to catch them. Nashville might be more of a concern at the moment, to be honest. And that’s still based on the fact that they sold off four major pieces at the deadline. However, both Nashville and Winnipeg play much harder schedules for the remainder of the season, which is a positive for the Flames.
There are still 34 points on the board for the Flames in their last seventeen games. Overcoming a point gap is always difficult, but not impossible. If Winnipeg keeps losing games, the math will continue to improve for the Flames. Every game is a must-win from this point. Enough of the playing down to opponents that we’ve seen from the Flames too many times this season.
A fun little caveat, the Flames play both the Predators and Jets in their last four games. Depending on how the last bunch of games go, those could be must watch hockey, similar to the 2014–15 season, where the Flames beat Darryl Sutter’s Kings in the second last game of the season to secure a playoff berth. In losing that game to the Flames, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings did not qualify for the playoffs.
Can the Flames do it? If Markstrom can continue his strong play recently, and Tyler Toffoli keeps carrying the offensive load on his back, they have a shot. Either way, we have an exciting last seventeen games of the Flames season to look forward to!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire
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