Calgary Flames’ Playoff Hopes Were Always a Mirage

Are the Calgary Flames still mathematically able to qualify for the 2021 NHL playoffs? Yes.

Will the Flames qualify for the 2020-21 NHL playoffs? No.

I’ve actually been preaching this since late March, right after Calgary lost back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators and fell out of contention for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Scotia North Division. There were those who thought my March 25th article was closing the book on the Flames’ season a tad too early, but I stuck to my guns – never wavering from my bold prediction. In fact, I even doubled down two weeks later with a more brazen proclamation. On April 7th, I published “The Flames Need to Pull the Plug on Trying to Make the Playoffs” and offered up a detailed five-step plan on how best to tank the remainder of the season to ensure a top draft pick.

Flames’ Late-Season Surge Was Actually Fueled by Montreal Collapsing

There was a lot of talk a month ago suggesting the Flames would have to play .800 hockey to somehow scratch and claw their way back into the postseason picture. It turns out having a losing record was just what the doctor ordered. As improbable as that sounds, that is exactly what happened. Since I proclaimed the season D.O.A. on March 25th, the boys in red have played 14 times and have posted a very underwhelming 6-8 record. And yet, on Monday night, they were ONE WIN AWAY from closing the gap between them and the Habs to a measly two points! How was this even possible?

Tyler Toffoli Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Look no further than the sliding Canadiens. Before Monday night’s critical 2-1 win over the Flames, they had won just three of their previous 11 contests. In fact, since their red-hot start to the season, Montreal has had one of the worst records in the division, going 14-16-7 since the end of January. This is how the Flames found false hope. This is why the playoff push ended up being an unattainable mirage. Put up your hand if you thought going 6-7 in the month leading up to Monday night’s season-defining game would be enough to get the team back into the race? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? I didn’t think so.

Even With Getting All of the Help in the World, the Flames Couldn’t Finish

I will give the Flames some credit. Since I called for them to tank in my April 7th article, the team has produced their best seven-game stretch of the season, going 5-2 before ultimately losing their final head-to-head game against the Habs. This small surge of wins, combined with the continued collapse of the Canadiens, was enough to make believers out of a lot of faithful fans who live in the C of Red. Heck, we even debated it on our most recent episode of Flames Faceoff and predicted the boys in red would sweep their three-game set with Montreal and make it a real race down the stretch.

However, with the entire season on the line, the Flames simply could not play the desperation-style hockey required to keep their slim playoff hopes alive and could only muster a single goal against the Canadiens in a do-or-die contest at the Saddledome on Monday. I felt the home team actually out-chanced and outplayed the visitors in the opening frame, but they found themselves down 1-0 after Shea Weber blasted a rocket from the point on the Habs’ power play. Calgary answered with their own PP marker just a couple of minutes later after Johnny Gaudreau set up Elias Lindholm with a beautiful pass.

After Tyler Toffoli scored late in the second period, it set up a desperate final 20 minutes with the Flames’ razor-thin playoff hopes hanging in the balance. However, the team with everything to lose found themselves completely smothered by a Montreal squad that held Calgary without a single shot for the final 7 minutes and 48 seconds. And that included having an extra attacker for the final 2:20. It was a frustratingly fitting way to cap off a surprising late-season playoff push the Flames quite literally backed into.

With 8 Games Remaining, Where do the Flames Go From Here?

I think it’s pretty obvious that the Flames will simply play out the string, but you won’t find anyone connected with the team to actually say this on the record. Now down six points with eight games left in the regular season, Calgary needs to run the table and hope the Habs continue to struggle mightily. Could this happen? Theoretically, yes, but it’s not very likely. I don’t think we will see many roster changes or AHL call-ups until they are mathematically eliminated, which should happen in the next 7-10 days.

Monday night’s critical loss was a fatal blow to a postseason dream this team really had no business even thinking about. I suggest we all start talking about next season and look at what changes are needed to make the Flames a legitimate playoff contender. It’s time for a serious reality check and to forget about misleading mirages.

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