The Calgary Flames are set to face off against the Winnipeg Jets in the preliminary round of the playoffs in a best-of-five series. The winner of that series advances to round one of the playoffs, the loser goes home. Both teams were bounced in the first round of the playoffs last year in 2018-19. Both teams have also had months to rest and recover due to the cancellation of NHL action brought on by COVID-19. The question now is, which team wants to win more?
Who Has Had Playoff Success More Recently?
As mentioned above, Calgary and Winnipeg both lost in the first round of the playoffs last year. But which team has had playoff success more recently? The last time the Flames won a playoff round, was 2014-15, before they eventually were defeated in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks. The Jets, on the other hand, surprised everyone in 2017-18 when they made a run to the conference final before being beaten by the Vegas Golden Knights in Vegas’ inaugural season.
Both organizations still have several core players on their roster from their teams that made it past the first round of the playoffs a few years ago. Looking farther back in history, the Flames last won the Stanley Cup in 1989, and the Jets have never won the Stanley Cup. With that said, everyone from the 1989 squad is retired by now. So I’d have to give the playoff experience edge to Winnipeg because they’ve gone deeper in the playoffs more recently than Calgary.
Who Was Doing Better Before the Pause?
The Flames had won 3 of 4 games in the month of March and outscored their opponents 12-8 before the season was put on hold. Those victories include a 3-0 shutout against an offensively gifted Florida Panthers team, who at the time were desperately battling with the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division, as well as a 3-2 overtime win against the hard-checking Columbus Blue Jackets who were fighting for their lives to hold the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Jets had won all four of their games in March before the season paused. They outscored opponents 15-5 over that stretch. Coincidentally, their next opponent they were scheduled to face if games weren’t cancelled was the Flames on March 14. That game would have been great for getting a read on how these teams stack up against each other if it had been the last game played before the pause. If Calgary had won, both teams would have had four wins and one loss for the month of March, and they would have split their season series 1-1 after an outdoor game in October that needed overtime to decide a winner went Winnipeg’s way.
So, Who Will Win?
Trying to decide who will win a best-of-five series between these two teams is tough, but it seems like the Jets have a slight advantage. Winnipeg has an edge because Calgary has the worse goal differential of the two teams. The Flames had a poor goal differential of minus-5 (i.e., 210 goals for and 215 goals against). The Jets, on the other hand, owned a respectable goal differential of plus-13 (i.e., 216 goals for and 203 goals against). Winnipeg also has more high-end talent. The Jets had five skaters score at least 20 goals, including Kyle Connor who scored 38. The Flames only had three 20-goal men, and no one with over 30 goals.
Differences in firepower aside, the Flames finished the regular season with a record of 36-27-7 in 70 games played, earning them 79 points in the standings. The Jets finished their season 37-28-6 with 80 points in 71 games played. Only one point in the standings separates these two teams and Calgary had a game in hand when play paused. If there’s one X factor that’s difficult to account for, it’s the impact that the coaching change Calgary made mid-season will have on the outcome of their post-season. (from ‘GEOFF WARD: New coach the kind of ‘guys guy’ the Flames need right now,’ Calgary Sun, 12/01/2019)
Related: Top 3 All-Time Flames Goalies
Still, all things quantifiable considered, I predict the Jets winning in five games, with at least three of them going to overtime. No matter what the outcome though, two western Canadian teams are going to lock horns very soon, and only one will survive to the next round of the playoffs.
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