For the first time in eight years, the Calgary Flames are in a position to make the playoffs as they enter the home-stretch of the season. While this is a welcome change from the past, there is still lots of hockey left to be played.
Barring a phenomenal late-season charge from the Oilers or Wild (both would need to win 75% of their remaining games), the West is shaping up to be a five-team race for the final four playoff positions.
Third Quarter in Review
After losing three in a row on the road, the Flames finished the 3rd quarter with only 8 wins and 18 points, a pace which will need to be improved upon for the team to end the longest current playoff drought in the NHL.
Of utmost concern is the team's goal scoring. The Flames have scored just 10 goals in their last six games, and aside from Jarome Iginla, the team hasn't had a consistent sniper in the last two months. Those missing-in-action include Steve Reinprecht (no goals in his last 25 games), Matt Lombardi (1 goal in his last 14 games, 0 assists in his last 26 games), Oleg Saprykin (0 goals in his last 16 games), Martin Gelinas and Chris Clark (0 goals in each of their last 9 games).
However, there were some positives in the last quarter. Miikka Kiprusoff returned from a lengthy injury and has allowed just 9 goals in his 5 games back. Roman Turek has had three solid outings in a row. And the aforementioned Iginla was the team's clear-cut MVP, scoring 15 goals in his last 20 games.
A look ahead...
With 12 of their remaining 21 games to be played on the road, the Flames don't have an easy schedule. However, they will play two games against each of Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, and Los Angeles, which will allow them to control their own destiny, provided that they can win. More importantly, with Stephane Yelle set to return, the team is relatively healthy for the first time in months. They've managed to weather several major injuries, and finally have some depth on the roster. Given this, don't expect much help at the trade deadline. Daryl Sutter isn't known for adding quick fixes, and given that the current squad has been relatively successful so far, he's unlikely to shake things up.
It'll take at least 90 points to secure a playoff spot this year, which means that the Flames need to play above .500 in the final quarter in order to see the post-season. This is certainly attainable, but it will likely come down to the wire.
Fasten your seatbelts, it should be an exciting finale.