Right now in the NHL’s Western Conference, three teams are vying for one spot for the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators are the three teams battling it out. Each of these three teams face off against each other once more before the season is up as well, so the stakes are increasingly higher with each game prior to the matchups. Now with just a handful of games remaining, let’s take a look at what might transpire for the three teams.
Winnipeg holding down the wild card
The Winnipeg Jets are currently in the second wild card spot, having earned 83 points in 72 games for a 57.6% points percentage. They have ten games remaining in their schedule to try to maintain said spot and thwart the Flames’ and Predators’ attempts to catch them.
|March 23||@ ANA||2–0–0|
|March 25||@ LAK||1–0–1|
|March 28||@ SJS||0–0–1|
|March 31||vs DET||0–1–0|
|April 2||vs NJD||0–1–0|
|April 5||vs CGY||1–1–0|
|April 8||vs NSH||2–1–0|
|April 10||vs SJS||0–0–1|
|April 11||@ MIN||0–3–0|
|April 13||@ COL||2–1–0|
With an even split of home and away games remaining, the Jets have a five-game homestand sandwiched by two road trips. At home, they are 22–12–2, whereas on the road they’re 18–17–1. Of their nine opponents, the Jets are facing four teams above them and five below them in the standings. Two of their 10 games are against Calgary and Nashville on home ice, and perhaps those two will carry the biggest implications of all.
What favours the Jets the most is that they’re currently the team to beat. The Jets have a four-point gap over the Flames and five-point gap over the Predators, and they also hold the tiebreaker over both teams with more regulation wins. So that means the Flames are actually five points out of the wild card spot, and the Predators are six.
From a mathematical point of view, the Jets are in control of their destiny. In theory, if they win out the rest of the season, they clinch no matter what. However, the realistic scenario is they’ll aim to get their magic number to clinch down to zero as fast as possible based on their own wins versus losses dealt to the Flames and Predators.
Flames hoping to catch fire
The Calgary Flames are ninth in the Western Conference with 79 points in 72 games, good (or bad?) for a 54.9% points percentage. Like the Jets, they have ten games remaining and have the biggest uphill climb to get into the playoffs.
|March 23||vs VGK||2–0–1|
|March 25||vs SJS||2–0–0|
|March 28||vs LAK||1–1–1|
|March 31||@ VAN||1–0–1|
|April 2||vs ANA||2–1–0|
|April 4||vs CHI||0–1–1|
|April 5||@ WPG||1–1–0|
|April 8||@ VAN||1–0–1|
|April 10||vs NSH||0–2–0|
|April 12||vs SJS||2–0–0|
The Flames have a heavier home schedule with seven games in the Saddledome versus just three on the road. That might not actually bode well for them as they have a 16–14–4 record at home and a 16–11–11 record away from home. The Flames have eight opponents left, where they’re above the standings against five, and below the standings against three.
The Flames are favoured by technically having the best roster on paper of the three teams, but everyone knows that the theory has not translated to results at all. They have had more than their fair share of cratered goaltending and shooting percentages, and the team is shaky. In reality, their bigger advantage definitely comes in the form of their remaining opponents. Aside from Vegas and Los Angeles, their other opponents are relatively weak. That said, the Flames have won against Vegas this year and have lost against weaker teams.
So they control their destiny in the sense that they have a winnable schedule and can actually make ground in the wild card race if they’re able to execute. It’s not even a matter of playing down to their opponents, it’s a matter of playing up to an acceptable standard. It’s going to be a tough ride. Per Tankathon.com, the Flames have the outright easiest schedule remaining in the NHL.
Predators on the prowl
Nashville went into the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline as… sellers. They traded Mattias Ekholm to the Edmonton Oilers, and made other moves like sending Mikael Granlund to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After an admirable acquisition of assets, the Predators still find themselves in the playoff race.
They’re right behind Calgary, sitting at 78 points in 69 games played, resulting in a 56.5% points percentage. They have three games in hand as they and the Carolina Hurricanes currently have the fewest games played in the whole league.
|March 23||vs SEA||0–1–0|
|March 25||vs SEA||0–1–0|
|March 26||vs TOR||0–1–0|
|March 28||@ BOS||0–1–0|
|March 30||@ PIT||0–1–0|
|April 1||vs STL||1–1–1|
|April 3||@ DAL||0–3–0|
|April 4||vs VGK||0–1–1|
|April 6||vs CAR||1–0–0|
|April 8||@ WPG||1–0–2|
|April 10||@ CGY||2–0–0|
|April 13||vs MIN||1–1–0|
|April 14||vs COL||0–2–1|
The Predators have eight games at home where they’re 17–12–4, versus five games on the road with a 18–14–4 record. They have a tough schedule as they play every team except for the St. Louis Blues is ahead of them in the standings. Even looking at their next slate of games, they’re currently winless against the Seattle Kraken, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators are obviously favoured by their games in hand. They have more runway left than the other two teams. That said, a lot of that runway will be turbulent and treacherous. Again as per Tankathon, the Predators have the hardest schedule left in the entire NHL.
The Predators control their destiny in the sense that if they pull out some upsets, then they’re not just back in the race, they could gain serious momentum and close out their season eking into the playoffs.
A three-horse race for the playoffs
As seen, all three teams have things going in favour and going against them. At the end of the day—or rather, the end of the season—it’ll come down to which team was able to elevate their play down the final stretch. With all three teams having games remaining against each other, those games will be massive.
Winnipeg currently has the last wild card spot, but they’re being chased and have struggled recently. Calgary has the toughest odds but easiest schedule. Nashville has the toughest schedule but a lot more room for error. It’s anyone’s guess as to which team will make it to the postseason.
The odds are most stacked against the Flames, but they got themselves in this situation so they have to earn their way out of it too.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire