The Heritage Classic and The Playoff Race Is On!

Today’s the second ever Heritage Classic outdoor hockey game (Heritage Classic is in Canada – there’s also an annual outdoor game/marketing bonanza in the US called the Winter Classic.)

Today’s game is between the Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames and even if you’re not a hockey fan, it’s worth paying attention to how the season is going right now with a couple months left until the playoffs start.

The Flames are my team but have had a pretty crappy season, being in second-last place in their division just a couple months ago and basically sucking pretty hard all year long.

Fans were up in arms speculating about trading the team’s captain and long-time face of the franchise, Jarome Iginla which would basically indicate the Flames were blowing up the whole team and going into full rebuild mode.

But they’ve gone on an unreal run after their GM got fired resigned at the end of December – getting at least a point in something like 21 of their last 25 games – which is unheard of in the NHL by *any* team and where the top teams play about .650 hockey.  That run has catapulted the Flames back into a playoff spot (well, they’re currently in 9th spot and the top 8 teams in each division make the playoffs.)

The league’s parity (which is part of the reason teams don’t go on 16-4-5 runs) especially in the Western Division where the Flames play most of their games meant that at one point last week, FIVE of the eight playoff spots had teams tied with the exact same number of points (I think it was 86.)  Today, three points separate the team in 4th spot from the team in 10th spot. Only ten points (five wins) separate the 4rd spot from the 13th.

One thing working against the Flames’ claiming one of those top eight spots is that they’ve played more games than most of the teams they’re competing against (eg. those other teams still have games-in-hand to gain points on the Flames).  But there are some things in the Flames’ favour including a lot of home games which usually give an advantage to the home team – both because of crowd support but also in a practical sense because the home team gets last change and an advantage on face-offs too because they put their sticks down last.

So yeah, if you want to catch the excitement, check out the forum on CalgaryPuck.com and read a few of the threads, especially the ones debating the Flames odds of making the playoffs.  You can also check out this site, aimed at sports bettors, which numerically shows the impact of not only the Flames wins and loses but shows you which other teams to cheer for each night to give the Flames the best odds of making the playoffs as well!

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