SUN Hockey Pool

Calgary Flames numbers game

CRAIG ELLINGSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

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It’s going to be a battle to the end to make the NHL playoffs for the Calgary Flames — and that’s if they win all six of their remaining games in the regular season.

And in order for that to happen, they need a few teams to buckle down the stretch — specifically, teams in the Pacific Division.

All five of them — the San Jose Sharks, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings, the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars — are ahead of the Flames and are very much candidates to nail down post-season spots. But, as the NHL schedule-maker tends to throw a few intra-divisional games into the mix at the end of any campaign, there should be some cannibalization going on in the NHL’s west-coast division.

All totaled, the Pac teams will play nine games against each other in the stretch-run.

Let’s leave the Sharks and the Coyotes out of this equation, as they’re comfortably ahead of the Flames — 10 and eight points in front of the Calgary clubs, respectively.

The hardest ‘hit,’ as far as these upcoming divisional games go, will be the Ducks and the Kings, two clubs within striking distance for the Flames. Each of the metro L.A. clubs has eight games left and plays inside the Pacific for their final five tilts of the season, including two against each other.

The Stars, who sit one point ahead of the Flames in ninth heading into Saturday’s tilts, have four of their final nine games against divisional opponents.

So that’s the bright side of this look at the schedule for the Flames.

The dark side? Those darn three-point games. Since the beginning of March, the three teams in question — the Kings, the Ducks and the Stars — have played in 14 divisional games that were decided by one goal, and nine of them went to overtime or a shootout.

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The Detroit Red Wings, to many, are still the ones to be measured against when it comes to maintaining success on the ice.

Even with the oldest roster in the league — an average age of 31 — the Red Wings sit second in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the NHL.

But as the regular season comes to a close and the playoffs get set to start, the Wings will sit in an unfamiliar position defensively: In the middle of the road or further down the list in terms of defensive statistics. The Wings are 18th in the NHL in team goals against prior to Friday’s slate of games, while starting goalie Jimmy Howard sports a .909 save percentage (32nd in the league among goalies who’ve played 20-plus games) and a 2.77 goals-against average (37th). Those are not exactly championship-calibre numbers.

When the club last won the Stanley Cup, in 2008, they were tops in the NHL in goals-against as a team, while then-starter Chris Osgood was second in goals-against average at 2.09 and 18th in save percentage at .914 among goalies who played 20-plus games.

Snap count

2: If the Flames miss the post-season, it’ll be the first time both they and the Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs two seasons in a row … 50: The Boston Bruins are pretty much a lock to win the Northeast Division and head into the second season as a Stanley Cup favourite, but they’re just one game over .500 when it comes to wins at home on the regular-season schedule this campaign (18-12-5) if you consider loser points would be playoff losses … 8: Number of CFLers who signed in the NFL this year. Compare that to 18 a year ago.

craig.ellingson@sunmedia.ca


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