With the regular season nearing its conclusion, both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have been jockeying for position within the Pacific Division. After both teams defeated the Los Angeles Kings this past weekend, they both now look like locks to make the playoffs this spring.
Can we just put our differences aside for a second and rejoice in the fact that it’s late March and we’re talking about the possibility of not only both Alberta teams making the playoffs but even rekindling the first Battle of Alberta playoff series since 1991? After years of mediocrity, both teams look to have the building blocks in place to become real contenders in the Western Conference in a few years, let alone challenge for the Pacific Division crown.
This year both franchises are dark horses and entering the playoffs hot. The San Jose Sharks are separating themselves from the herd at the top of the Pacific Division, but the battle for spots two-to-four are changing on a daily basis between Calgary, Edmonton, and Anaheim.
With a combined four games against the Ducks in the final stretch, the real race everyone is watching now is between the two Albertan teams. For what it’s worth the Oilers swept the season series against the Flames going 4-0-0.
Despite going 2-2 in their last four games, Calgary is one of the hottest teams in the league since February going 16-4-1 through 21 games. The Flames are 8-2-0 in their last ten games thanks to some stellar play from their goaltender Brian Elliott who has lost just one game in regulation through 14 starts since February 5th. Elliott won 11 straight games during that stretch, tying the franchise record for most consecutive wins set by Mike Vernon in 1989.
Johnny Gaudreau has been the offensive catalyst for the Flames with 18 points in his last 14 games, while Sean Monahan has 15 points in the same span.
Edmonton is currently on a four-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 18-5 during that stretch. The Oilers are also 6-3-1 in their last ten (.650 W%) and have outscored their opponents 18-5 in their last four. Not to be outdone the Oilers are also riding a hot goaltender in Cam Talbot who has back to back shutouts and is just three wins away from tying the franchise record for most wins in a season set by Grant Fuhr (40 wins) in 1988. Last week Talbot passed Tommy Salo for sole position of second place on that list.
Connor McDavid is currently leading the NHL in scoring with 82 points in 72 games, and the team has three 20-goal scorers (McDavid, Patrick Maroon, and Leon Draisaitl). Milan Lucic is hot right now as well with five goals and nine points in his last ten games. Ditto for Draisaitl who has nine points in his last four games.
So who finishes on top between Calgary and Edmonton this season?
Flames’ Stretch Drive
Calgary’s remaining schedule sees them play six of their remaining nine games against teams in playoff positions. They play Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Jose and St. Louis. Their record against those teams this season is 9-6-0.
The Flames only three games against nonplayoff teams are against Colorado and Los Angeles, and they’re 4-1-0 against those teams. All things considered, it’s a hard schedule for the Flames as five of their remaining games are against teams playing .500 hockey in their last ten games.
CALGARY’S REMAINING SCHEDULE
|March 23||@ Nashville (4th CEN)||36-25-11 (83 PTS)||1-1-0||5-3-2|
|March 25||@ St. Louis (3rd CEN)||39-28-5 (83 PTS)||1-1-0||8-2-0|
|March 27||Colorado (7th CEN)||20-49-3 (43 PTS)||2-0-0||3-7-0|
|March 29||Los Angeles (5th PAC)||34-31-7 (75 PTS)||2-1-0||4-4-2|
|March 31||San Jose (1st PAC)||42-24-7 (91 PTS)||2-1-0||4-6-0|
|April 2||Anaheim (3rd PAC)||38-23-11 (87 PTS)||1-2-0||6-3-1|
|April 4||@ Anaheim (3rd PAC)||38-23-11 (87 PTS)||1-2-0||6-3-1|
|April 6||@ Los Angeles (5th PAC)||34-31-7 (75 PTS)||2-1-0||4-4-2|
|April 8||@ San Jose (1st PAC)||42-24-7 (91 PTS)||2-1-0||4-6-0|
Five of those games are also on the road. Calgary has already picked up 18 of a possible 30 points against the teams in their remaining schedule, giving them a .600 winning percentage against those clubs. If the Flames maintain that level of play against the competition they’d be going 5-3-1 in their final nine and picking up 11 of a possible 18 points.
That would give Calgary 97 points on the season. For what it’s worth the Flames are currently on pace for 96 points based on their overall winning percentage this season. This could be the Flames second playoff berth in three years after a stretch that saw them make the playoffs once in just seven seasons.
Edmonton’s Stretch Drive
Edmonton’s remaining schedule sees them play six of their remaining ten games against teams that are not in a playoff position. They play Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver twice. Their record against those teams this season is an impressive 8-3-2.
The Oilers’ only four games against playoff teams are against the Ducks and Sharks. Edmonton has a combined 3-2-1 record against those teams. It’s a favorable schedule on paper with only two teams (Anaheim and Los Angeles) playing .500 hockey in their last ten games.
EDMONTON’S REMAINING SCHEDULE
|March 22||@ Anaheim (3rd PAC)||38-23-11 (87 PTS)||2-1-0||6-3-1|
|March 23||@ Colorado (7th CEN)||20-49-3 (43 PTS)||1-0-0||3-7-0|
|March 25||Colorado (7th CEN)||20-49-3 (43 PTS)||1-0-0||3-7-0|
|March 28||Los Angeles (5th PAC)||34-31-7 (75 PTS)||2-1-0||4-4-2|
|March 30||San Jose (1st PAC)||42-24-9 (91 PTS)||1-1-1||4-6-0|
|April 1||Anaheim (3rd PAC)||38-23-11 (87 PTS)||2-1-0||6-3-1|
|April 4||@ Los Angeles (5th PAC)||34-31-7 (75 PTS)||2-1-0||4-4-2|
|April 6||@ San Jose (1st PAC)||42-24-9 (91 PTS)||1-1-1||4-6-0|
|April 8||@ Vancouver (6th PAC)||29-34-9 (67 PTS)||2-0-1||3-5-2|
|April 9||Vancouver (6th PAC)||29-34-9 (67 PTS)||2-0-1||3-5-2|
The Oilers remaining schedule is evenly split between home and road games, but they play three of their final four games on the road. Edmonton has already picked up 18 of 26 possible points against the teams in their remaining ten games, and holds a .692 winning percentage. If the Oilers maintain that level of play against the competition they’d be going 6-3-1 in their final ten and pick up 13 of 20 possible points.
That would give Edmonton 100 points on the season. For what it’s worth the Oilers are currently on pace for 99 points, so that projection isn’t far fetched. However way you slice it, the Oilers are on pace to have their best season since 1987-88.
What Does It All Mean?
The battle between Edmonton and Calgary has created an exciting race in the final weeks of the season. With the projections calculated above, the Oilers look to have the upper hand on the Flames.
Not only does Edmonton have a more favorable schedule, but they also have an extra game in hand on Calgary as the regular season reaches its conclusion. The Oilers have just four games against teams in a playoff position, whereas the Flames have four.
|PROJECTED PACIFIC DIVISION STANDINGS|
|1||X – San Jose Sharks||102|
|2||X – Edmonton Oilers||99|
|3||X – Anaheim Ducks||99|
|4||X – Calgary Flames||97|
|5||Los Angeles Kings||85|
Based on these projections the Flames would end up in the top wildcard spot, and draw the division leading Sharks in the first round. The Oilers would have home ice advantage and open the first round against the Ducks. Still, there’s plenty of room for movement between the Oilers, Ducks and Flames. Anaheim plays four of their final ten games against the two Alberta teams and with each team within one point of each other in today’s standings.
Anything can happen, and it’s safe to say we’re in for a wild ride down to the finish line as the regular season reaches its conclusion.
Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.