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Calgary, AB • Canada • 22 Years Old • Male
I just did not have the energy to muster a blog post late last night, after the Calgary Flames' 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at home. So I'll briefly summarize this huge game before detailing how it affects the Flames' division hopes. This game was, in my view, simply a heartbreaker for the Flames, who outshot, outchanced, and had more puck control for the entire game than Edmonton. For the first time all season, I am willing to blame this loss on Miikka Kiprusoff. I usually never do such a thing, but the statistics speak for themselves. I thought Dustin Penner's winning goal was a bit of a softie allowed by Kipper, who was too far in his crease and did not see the shot coming. But then again, this loss could just as easily be blamed on the bad luck that hit the Flames in the final minute, which came in the form of the post hit by Alex Tanguay on the tip in that looked and sounded exactly like a goal on TV (with the goal horn blaring and everything) only to find out it clearly hit the post. However, I can only lay blame for a certain amount of time and have to give some credit to the Oilers, who looked sunk after their devastating shootout loss in Colorado and preserved their playoff hopes with a win. The Oilers are now in a three way tie with Nashville and Vancouver for the final playoff berth (points-wise, although they are at the bottom because they have played more games, and the odds are still stacked against them) and the team with some of the worst injury luck this season in the West (in sharp contrast to the disgustingly healthy Flames) simply refuses to die. A noteworthy statistic: although the Flames outshot and outhit the Oilers by healthy margins, the Oilers did draw more penalties than the Flames, and their winning goal was scored on their last power play. The Flames would have won this game if they'd been able to capitalize on a 5-on-3 late in the first. This is a rhetorical question after about six years of the same powerplay, but I ask again...when will the Flames have a competent powerplay? As I expected, Kristian Huselius was back in the lineup for the game. He logged 18:39 ice time and got two shots, one of which was almost tipped in by Tanguay for the tying goal.

No matter how you perceive the loss, it is certainly not hopeful for the Flames' division hopes. The Flames' magic number to beat Minnesota remains 10 points, but on the Flames' three day break the Colorado Avalanche tied them with 90 points, so that's also the Avs' number to beat Minnesota and win the division. The Flames still have one critical advantage over the Wild and Avs, however, and that is the fact that they have a game in hand over both teams. With that in mind, the simple fact is: the only way the Flames can win the division by themselves, would be to win out. Winning all four remaining games would give the Flames 98 points, which would be mathematically impossible for the Wild or Avalanche to match, although Minnesota would finish only a point behind if they won two of their last three (meaning that the division would be decided April 3rd at Minnesota.

No matter how you perceive the loss, it is certainly not hopeful for the Flames' division hopes. The Flames' magic number to beat Minnesota remains 10 points, but on the Flames' three day break the Colorado Avalanche tied them with 90 points, so that's also the Avs' number to beat Minnesota and win the division. The Flames still have one critical advantage over the Wild and Avs, however, and that is the fact that they have a game in hand over both teams. With that in mind, the simple fact is: the only way the Flames can win the division by themselves, would be to win out. Winning all four remaining games would give the Flames 98 points, which would be mathematically impossible for the Wild or Avalanche to match, although Minnesota would finish only a point behind if they won two of their last three (meaning the division would be decided April 3rd when the Flames visit Minnesota in game number 81.)

Here are all of the other ways Calgary can win the elusive Northwest and get home ice advantage, if nothing else:

1. Calgary goes 3-1 over their final four, Minnesota and Colorado both go 1-2 or 0-3 over their final three, and Vancouver cannot match Calgary (because Calgary would have to beat them at least once.) Calgary wins the division with only 96 points.

2. Calgary goes 2-2, the bare minimum to catch Minnesota in points, Minnesota loses all three of their remaining games, Colorado goes 1-2 or 0-3, and Vancouver loses one of their remaining four games (finishing 3-1 or worse). Calgary wins with an incredibly low 94 points, which is a common projection to simply make the playoffs, let alone a top 3 seed.

Put simply, the "easiest" way to win it would be to win all their remaining games, period, on the road against (in order) Vancouver, Edmonton, Minnesota and Vancouver. Admittedly, winning out would have won the division prior to last night's game as well, but last night's game was their last home game of the regular season and now they must win against four of the toughest crowds in the NHL (or at least, they all have better home records than the Flames except Vancouver, who has one less win).

But perhaps I'm getting too ahead of myself again. Tonight's game is another four-pointer against Vancouver. If the Flames win tonight, they need only one more win, overtime loss or 9th seed loss to clinch a playoff berth, which would set up a situation eerily similar to last year, when the Flames had three chances to clinch in the first week of April and lost them all, and nearly lost their playoff berth. The Flames need to put the disappointment of last night behind them, focus and be more determined than the Canucks, despite Vancouver being far more desperate than the Flames at this point. In short, they need to have the mindset the Oilers had last night.

~SKR
Filed Under:   wild   avalanche   canucks   oilers   flames   northwest  
March 30, 2008 9:50 PM ET | Delete
I'm good with the Flames going 3-1 to end the year.
March 31, 2008 12:16 AM ET | Delete
Well, Zombie, that is basically their only route to win now. Down 6-2 to Vancouver...what a ridiculously pathetic effort....
March 31, 2008 5:47 PM ET | Delete
Going to be a very short post-season, methinks. Exactly the same situation as last year. Slinking into the playoffs playing miserable hockey, to face an elite team who will embarrass and easily dispatch this absurdly inconsistent and generally lazy Flames team. Sigh.
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