Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Storylines: Extinguished Flames

We’ve got a dozen games on the schedule tonight, and with two weeks left in the season all eyes will be on the teams that are still alive in the playoff hunt. For our key game tonight, we’re going to get really generous with our definition of “still alive.”

HNIC Game of the Night:Flames at Sharks

We don’t need any complicated set-up here. Things are very simple for the Calgary Flames right now. Any margin for error is long gone. They need to win tonight in San Jose, and then win again in L.A. on Monday. And then they’ll almost certainly have to win every game the rest of the way. Then they need to hope for a miracle.

Even seven straight wins would get them to only 94 points, and that wouldn’t be enough unless somebody collapses. Odds are, it’s already over, and a win tonight only postpones the inevitable for a few more days. That’s the reality in Calgary, and the reality is ugly. So let’s be kind and pretend the Flames are still in this thing, if only as an excuse to get invested in what had seemed to be looming as a big game just a week ago.

Even if you’re not a Flames fan, it may be worth rooting for Calgary to stay in it tonight. That’s because after a long season in which there wasn’t much separation between the middle 20 or so teams, we suddenly find ourselves staring down the possibility of a final few weeks without all that much of a playoff race.

The Eastern Conference is already down to the Devils and Panthers fighting for one spot, barring a late collapse by the Flyers. We’d expected the Hurricanes, Islanders and maybe even Rangers to be in the mix down the stretch, but no such luck.

The Western race is a little tighter, but if we write off the Flames then we’re down to just the Blues and Stars still chasing spots. And even that might be generous to Dallas, who’ve lost seven straight and are missing Ben Bishop. Depending on how the next few days play out, it’s not inconceivable that we could go into the final week with all 16 playoff spots more or less wrapped up.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. If you’re a Calgary fan looking for optimism, you could point out that the Flames did manage to rip off seven straight not all that long ago, back when everything was clicking and certain dummies were penciling them in for a long playoff run. It happened then. Why not now, right?

Don’t actually answer that; the list of reasons why it won’t happen is a long one. Even the Flames seem to realize that, given that they’re shutting down Sean Monahan for the season. But every miracle journey begins with a single step, so here we go. At the very least, the plan isn’t all that complicated right now. Win out, then hope. It’s not much, but it’s all the Flames have got, and it starts this afternoon.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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