The Numbers Game: Crunch Time Approaches for the Calgary Flames

Olli Jokinen, Jarome Iginla and the rest of the Flames are about to hit crunch time. (Mark Mauno/Flickr).

Now that the National Hockey League season has progressed past the All-Star Break, the Calgary Flames have played 50 games. The team has amassed a record of 23-21-6 over the first major chunk of the season, putting the team in 11th place in the Western Conference with 52 points.

Last season, conventional wisdom dictated that roughly 95 points would be enough for a playoff berth. Calgary’s torrid second-half pace earned them 94 points, and the cut-off for the post-season ended up being 97 points. With that in mind, and 97 points being the goal, the Calgary Flames will need to earn 45 points to secure a playoff berth.

With 32 games remaining, that requires the club to win (at least) 22 of their remaining games to make the post-season. It sounds a bit daunting, but the schedule may, in fact, be on their side.

For your information, the teams Calgary will play from here on out, in order of current overall standing (best to worst):

  • DETROIT (1): Statistically the best club that Calgary will play. But the Flames have already beaten the Red Wings twice this season. Their lone loss against the Wings came in Detroit and their lone remaining match-up comes in the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
  • ST. LOUIS (1): The Blues have been a tough nut for Calgary to crack this season, even back under the tutelage of now-deposed bench boss Davis Payne. However, the teams have split their three meetings rather evenly, with the home team winning every game to date. And the last meeting between the Flames and the Blues takes place in Calgary.
  • VANCOUVER (3): Let’s be blunt: the Vancouver Canucks are a better hockey club, at least on paper, than the Calgary Flames. But don’t tell that to Calgary, as rookie netminder Leland Irving put on a goaltending clinic back in December as the Flames went into Vancouver and took two points from the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners. It was the first regulation win for the Flames in Vancouver since November of 2008. The Flames will get three more cracks to take away points from the Canucks.
  • CHICAGO (1): Last season, the home team won every meeting between Calgary and Chicago. This season, the home team has won every meeting between Calgary and Chicago. The remaining match-up will be in Calgary.
  • PHILADELPHIA (1): These teams rarely play each other, and Eastern Conference games are effectively “bonus points” (as if you give up points, it’s not to a conference rival). That said, Calgary won their meeting last year.
  • SAN JOSE (2): In four meetings last year, Calgary took away three points. Thus far, they are slightly below last year’s pace. San Jose seems to have Calgary’s number.
  • LOS ANGELES (2): The Flames have split two games with Darryl Sutter’s new club, with the home team losing each game. The remaining games are split evenly between the Staples Center and the Saddledome.
  • TORONTO (1): Calgary won both meetings with the Leafs last season and narrowly lost their visit to the ACC earlier this winter, mostly due to the heroics of one Phil Kessel. The rematch is in Calgary.
  • MINNESOTA (2): Calgary has won three of four games with their divisional rivals this season, and seem to be squarely in the heads of the Wild players. If this trend can continue, these are much-needed points for the Flames.
  • COLORADO (2): The Flames have won every single meeting with the Avalanche in the 2011-12 season. They won five of six last season.
  • DALLAS (4): Yes, the Flames have yet to play the Stars. However, the Stars aren’t doing great this year and Calgary won all four of their meetings last season.
  • PHOENIX (4): Yes, the Flames have yet to play the Coyotes. But the Coyotes absolutely owned Calgary last year. The Flames need to get points out of these games. Need.
  • WINNIPEG (1): The Flames and the Jets meet up in March in Calgary, in the first-ever meeting of the two NHL teams that left sunny Atlanta for cold, cold Western Canada. Calgary beat the Thrashers last year in their only match-up.
  • MONTREAL (1): Calgary went 1-0-1 against the Habs last season and won in their visit to Montreal earlier this season. The rematch goes in Calgary.
  • ANAHEIM (3): The Flames haven’t won in Anaheim since January of 2004, but they will get two cracks at it between now and the end of the regular season. Calgary beat the Ducks in overtime in the Saddledome back in mid-January.
  • EDMONTON (2): The Flames are 18-1-1 against the Oilers in their last 20 meetings. They haven’t lost to them at all yet this year.
  • COLUMBUS (1): The Flames haven’t played great against the West’s worst team, but they’ll need to. Why? Because there are points on the table and Calgary has only taken three of a possible six away from the Blue Jackets this season.

In short: the majority of Calgary’s remaining games are [1] at home, [2] against teams that the Flames have had a fair amount of recent success and [3] rarely on back-to-back nights. In addition, the team is rapidly getting players back from the injured reserve, such as Matt Stajan, Mark Giordano and Alex Tanguay. If there will ever be a time to make hay, it will be over the next 32 games.

Ryan Pike

  • Lukas

    Good read, Ryan.

    I look forward to seeing whether or not this is a team that can make the playoffs this season. I think that they have the right pieces, but in a very tight Western Conference, you just never know.