The Calgary Flames are on the outside looking into the playoff picture.
But a boost from the NHL’s easiest remaining schedule could put them back into the middle of the chase for a berth in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No team has an easier remaining route than the Flames, who have the 32nd toughest docket from here on out, according to Tankathon.
Calgary currently sits four back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with each team having 17 remaining skates. The Jets also hold a significant advantage on the first tie-breaker, with five more regulation wins at 28. Winnipeg also has the edge on the second tie-breaker, with 35 regulation or overtime wins compared to 27 for Calgary.
“I think any time you can bring that sense of urgency and desperation into a hockey game and play with that emotion and passion it’s just a bonus,” Flames centre Nazem Kadri said.
“We’ve just got to find some momentum and continue to stack points.”
The one advantage the Flames hold is the strength of schedule, which will see Calgary play the Anaheim Ducks three times, including Friday at Scotiabank Saddledome, two tilts with each of the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, and singles against the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks.
By comparison, the Jets have the 16th toughest ticket, with games remaining against Eastern Conference juggernauts like the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Tampa Bay Lightning, and Western Conference tilts with the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.
Mix in the fact the Nashville Predators, who hold a better points percentage than Calgary and sit just two points back with three games in hand, and Calgary needs to capitalize. Fortunately, the Predators have the fifth-hardest schedule remaining with upcoming meetings against the Bruins, Hurricanes, Stars, Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Advantage Flames. At least on paper.
Because Calgary hasn’t exactly charged into weaker opponents.
The Flames are 16-12-8 for a .556 points percentage against teams currently in a playoff spot, and just 13-11-5 for a .535 points percentage versus teams on the outside looking in, according to Sportsnet 960’s Derek Wills.
“I think there’s a lot of commitment from guys too, coming to the rink every day knowing there’s a lot on the line every game, every shift,” Calgary forward Dillon Dube said.
“It’s important that we bring it every single night.”