Crunch time is officially here for two Canadian teams looking to make it to the postseason. With 7 games left in their schedules, the Winnipeg Jets are currently two points ahead of the Calgary Flames for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They also both play on Friday night. So, who’s got the better chance of making it in? We break it down below.
Winnipeg has been sputtering out recently, with a record of 6-7-1 in the month of March. Although they were holding a top 3 spot in the Central Division for much of the season, the Jets were eventually caught by a healthy Avalanche team and have been holding on for dear life ever since. They’ve got some top end talent and solid goaltending, but outside of Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg does not have a strong blue line. They’re also getting older, which certainly doesn’t help at the end of the season.
In their remaining seven games, they’ll play the Red Wings, Devils, Flames, Predators, Sharks, Wild and Avalanche. That’s three playoff teams, three non-playoff teams, and one massive matchup against Calgary. With the chances of Minnesota and Colorado still playing for seeding at the end of the season, the wins need to come as soon as possible for Winnipeg. Thankfully, they will play those first five games at home before closing out the season against their division rivals on the road.
It’s been a disappointing season in Calgary almost since the very beginning, but they’re still very much alive in the playoff race. In fact, if they weren’t so bad in games after regulation (6-15), there’s a good chance they’d be on the inside of the Top 8 right now and maybe even battling for 7th. Unfortunately, it’s been a tough year for star players that they were relying on to do more. Jacob Markstrom has had one of his worst years as a starter in the league, and newcomers Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau have not been able to put up numbers even close to what they had last year. Sure, part of that is based on systems and coaching, but Calgary still had to be expecting more than a combined 101 points 147 games.
In their last seven contests, the Flames will see the Canucks, Ducks, Blackhawks, Jets, Canucks, Predators and Sharks. Clearly, this is a much easier seven games than Winnipeg’s, and the schedule is Calgary’s biggest advantage over the Jets in this final stretch. Besides the game where they go head-to-head, Calgary will only play non-playoff teams. However, the Canucks have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the trade deadline and will certainly be looking to play spoiler to their Pacific Division Rivals.
Who Gets In?
Overall, we think the Flames will overtake the Jets and make it in. However, if Winnipeg can beat Calgary in regulation when they play each other, things will be awfully close and most likely go down to the very last games of the season. Both rosters have their fair share of big game experience, but also have had their fair share of issues this season. We’ll take Calgary simply for their strength of schedule. If you’re looking at it as a Flames fan, those seven games should be turned into 9 points at the minimum. For the Jets, it’s realistic to think that they won’t get more than 8 out of their last seven. The only thing for sure, though, is that it’s going to be a ton of fun to watch!