"Now-or-never time": Flames facing fierce climb back into playoff position

Feb 28 2023, 8:19 pm

The Calgary Flames have a mountain to scale if they hope to climb into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Flames, who sit four points back of the Seattle Kraken and five behind the Winnipeg Jets for each wild card spot into the playoffs from the Western Conference, are entering the territory of needing a massive winning streak to give themselves any sort of shot at postseason play.

And they know it.

“We know what kind of situation we’re in,” blueliner Rasmus Andersson said. “We’ve got to start winning and we’ve got to start getting wins, you know, three, four, five in a row. I’ve heard people talk about rollercoasters. We just need to win three, four, five in a row and get on a roll here.”

The Jets currently have the lowest points percentage of any of the West’s eight current playoff teams. Over an 82-game schedule, Winnipeg projects to reach 97 points.

In order for the Flames, currently projected to 90 points, to leapfrog that 97-point plateau, a 14-4-4 or 15-5-2 record is required. That’s a .727 points percentage pace for a team that’s currently playing at a .550 frequency through the opening 60 games of the season.

Not ideal.

What’s worse is Calgary isn’t trending in the right direction.

The Flames are just 3-4-3 since returning from the NHL All-Star break — slotting the home side 25th league-wide in points percentage since February 1.

“It’s kind of now-or-never time for us,” forward Blake Coleman said.

“We feel that we have the team that can get there and if we do we can make some noise. We’ve been saying it all year and it just hasn’t come together where we’ve strung some wins together.”

That much-needed heater might be hard to come by, though.

Calgary, still a favourite according to one analytics site, hasn’t had a win streak longer than three games this season, and their last came nearly three months ago. They’ve also gone 13 straight contests without back-to-back wins.

The upside features the fact that Pacific Division foes haven’t lit the world on fire of late, either. The Edmonton Oilers only have four wins in their past 10, and the Seattle Kraken equal the Flames’ three. Though the Los Angeles Kings have had five wins in the past 10, the wild-card chase has kept close thanks to the Jets’ 4-6-0 record over the same duration.

“You follow it,” Coleman said. “At the end of the day, it’s less about what other teams do, to me, than it is about what we do. If we can go off and win four or five in a row, there’s a pretty good chance somebody’s going to lose some ground and we’ll put ourselves in a good spot.

“There’s a lot of teams in the mix right now, which is a good thing. It gives you a lot of opportunity. But we’re getting to the point where the words are getting tired and it’s time to put some results up.”

The good news is that the Flames’ schedule aligns nicely to make up some ground, too.

The Saddledome-dwellers have two games remaining against the Minnesota Wild, a pair left against the Vegas Golden Knights, and also face the Kings twice. They’ll also see Winnipeg one more time, too.

A favourable April schedule also features the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators, and San Jose Sharks as teams all well outside of the playoff picture.

It’ll be a sprint to the finish line, no doubt.

And the Flames face an uphill battle.

“We’ve been in almost every game this year,” Andersson said. “But it’s frustrating, obviously, with the situation we’re in. A lot of overtime losses and one-goal games. We’ve just got to believe and we’ve just got to get on a roll. Every single person in this room believes we have a good team and we know what we’re capable of when we play at our best.

“Now is a good time to start playing at our best.”

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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