Stanley Cup Playoff Push: After selling at deadline, do Flames still have a shot?


Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau (13) and Sean Monahan (23) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during first period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Jason Franson/CP)

The NHL trade deadline is officially in the rearview mirror, which means we’re full-speed ahead on the hunt for the playoffs.

Here’s how the playoff picture is looking right now.


If the season ended today…

(1) Toronto vs. (4) Montreal
(2) Winnipeg vs. (3) Edmonton

What the playoff race looks like today…

Trade deadline takeaways…
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas had a list — impact forward, depth down the centre and on the blue line, a strong insurance policy in net — and he checked them all off in a series of precise cap-navigating moves. You can see evidence of lessons learned in past playoff losses in how this team is building around its core, adding character and skill and depth and making this club not just a tougher team to play against but one that’s built for a heavy playoff run.

The name of the game for Canada’s other three playoff teams? Defensive depth.

After being linked to big names like David Savard or potentially Jamie Oleksiak (who ultimately was not made available by the Stars) the Jets kept things in the North Division by acquiring Jordie Benn from the Vancouver Canucks — not exactly the kind of splash many thought GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might make. Instead, he’s betting on youth.

“I think that someone I’d like to see here as well is Ville Heinola, get an opportunity to show where he does fit,” Cheveldayoff told reporters Monday, via Ken Wiebe. “So, we feel we have some depth within the organization that is a little more than maybe what some other people might think. But when you come into a trade deadline, you’re sometimes victim to what might be out there as well.

“I look at the opportunity that’s in front of this group to continue to reap the benefits of some of the younger players getting better and getting an opportunity that should be beneficial to us moving forward.”

The Edmonton Oilers stood pat save for the addition of Dmitry Kulikov, while Marc Bergevin complemented March’s big-splash addition of forward Eric Staal with Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson.

The Calgary Flames’ selling of David Rittich to Toronto and Sam Bennett to Florida can’t have been promising signs of a playoff push for the Flames… but with back-to-back victories after Tuesday’s win over the Maple Leafs and their former netminder, could they make things interesting?

Important upcoming games…

• Thursday marks the first of four matchups between the Winnipeg Jets and Maple Leafs in the span of 10 days, which includes a three-game series late next week (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday). Not only will these contests serve as a potential preview of what could be a battle for the North Division crown later this spring, it’ll be the first glimpse of Leafs deadline acquisition Nick Foligno in blue and white (he’s expected to join Toronto in Winnipeg during that series following his seven-day quarantine.) Toronto is coming off back-to-back losses with Tuesday’s defeat coming at the hands of the Calgary Flames, who were deadline sellers but not completely out of the race just yet…

• Currently sitting fifth in the North with 39 points, the Flames are 13 points behind the third-place Edmonton Oilers, 14 behind Winnipeg, and a whopping 21 behind the first-place Maple Leafs. So, it’s safe to say the Flames are out of the running for a top-three spot in the division. That fourth-place spot, though? The Montreal Canadiens currently live there, with a six-point separation from the Flames and three games in hand. Here’s where things get really interesting: Five of the Flames’ next seven games are against Montreal, beginning Wednesday and Friday night and followed by a three-game series April 23-26. If Calgary’s going to make one final push for the playoffs, their opportunity is now. In addition to their five games against Montreal, they also face non-playoff clubs in Ottawa and Vancouver within the next week, while Montreal’s path is a little tougher as they take on Edmonton between bouts with the Flames.


If the season ended today…

(1) Washington vs. (4) Boston
(2) NY Islanders vs. (3) Pittsburgh

What the playoff race looks like today…

Trade deadline takeaways…
With the exception of a rush of transactions right around 3 p.m. Monday, this year’s deadline was on the quieter side… except if you’re in the East Division. Of the bigger deals, this was where the action was — all four contenders made moves to bulk up their respective offences.

The Washington Capitals made the biggest (and most surprising) splash with the acquisition of Anthony Mantha, and while they paid a hefty price for the big Red Wing, that investment is already paying dividends.

The New York Islanders got their business wrapped up earlier, with GM Lou Lamoriello bringing in familiar (and now clean-shaven) faces in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to boost New York’s scoring woes and try and fill part of the void left by Anders Lee’s absence. There’s evidence of chemistry there already.

Questions about Pittsburgh’s direction this season have been answered, first by the Penguins players making a push into post-season position, and then with the new leadership duo of Ron Hextall and Brian Burke bringing in forward Jeff Carter in an effort to keep them there.

The biggest name to move was, of course, Taylor Hall, who put his no-move clause powers to use to facilitate a deal to Boston — one that he hopes could be the start of a new chapter of his career. Both team and player are in need of an offensive boost if they’re to compete in a tough East Division.

Important upcoming games…

• The Atlantic powerhouse Boston Bruins are in unfamiliar territory here as they toe the line between contending and not. A four-point lead over the New York Rangers and six over the Philadelphia Flyers puts them in good but not exactly comfortable position heading down the stretch. If they can get through a back-to-back against theIslanders and come up with victories against Washington on Sunday, they’ll have what should be a welcome reprieve in the form of a three-game stint against Hall’s old club in Buffalo.

• The teams to watch here are Philadelphia and the Rangers. After choosing not to sell at the deadline, the Flyers are betting on a late surge. There’s no better time to prove you belong in the picture than their next three games against the division’s top clubs: at Pittsburgh Thursday, versus Washington Saturday, and against the Islanders on Sunday.

• The Rangers are the sneaky team here. They stood pat at the deadline, and with a trio of games against the post-deadline New Jersey Devils between Thursday and Sunday, they could be in a position to pounce.


If the season ended today…

(1) Carolina vs. (4) Nashville
(2) Tampa Bay vs. (3) Florida

What the playoff race looks like today…

Trade deadline takeaways…
It’s tough to bet against the defending Stanley Cup champs. The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the deadline as a popular Cup favourite and only increased their odds with the addition of coveted rearguard David Savard thanks to Julien BriseBois’s usual cap wizardry.

Rumoured to be among the busier teams Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t shake much up, opting to keep their goalie depth intact and move only Haydn Fleury out.

The Florida Panthers were also rumoured to be preparing for a big swing — and they took it. No one can fill the gap left by Aaron Ekblad, but the addition of Brandon Montour helps a lot. Sam Bennett was a player in need of a fresh start, and he gets that in Florida. If the Panthers get “playoff Sam Bennett,” they could be a real force as they show off the skill they already boast in their top six with some extra sandpaper down the lineup that makes them an all-around tougher team to play against.

Nashville went from sure sellers to standing pat and betting on themselves in the span of a month, and so far that’s looking like the best move David Poile could’ve made.

Important upcoming games…

• All locked in with 58 points apiece, the race is on between the Lightning, Hurricanes and Panthers for the top spot in the Central. The Lightning can tighten their grasp on that top spot this week with a pair of games against Florida followed by a back-to-back with Carolina.

• If the Predators, coming off a dominant victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, can win one of two matchups against Carolina (Thursday, Saturday), they can breathe a little easier heading into next week’s three-game series against the Chicago Blackhawks.


If the season ended today…

(1) Colorado vs. (4) St. Louis
(2) Vegas vs. (3) Minnesota

What the playoff race looks like today…

Trade deadline takeaways…
Last year, the Colorado Avalanche learned the hard way how important goalie depth is. Bringing in Devan Dubnyk was a wise choice, as were the additions of Carl Soderberg and Patrik Nemeth — both of whom bring familiarity and depth (not to mention, both had their most productive seasons with Colorado just a few years ago).

The Vegas Golden Knights being fairly quiet on the trade front was a testament to just how tight to the cap they are, and while the crafty addition of Mattias Janmark (via the San Jose Sharks) didn’t stand out compared to other teams’ moves, it might just prove to be a sneaky-good deadline deal.

The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues stood pat at the deadline. The Wild’s success this year was rewarded by GM Bill Guerin keeping his club together, while the Blues’ situation felt a little more perilous at the deadline. Doug Armstrong could’ve sent a message to his underperforming roster with a big move, but instead sends a different kind of message by keeping things intact and putting the onus on a capable core to get things back on track and remain in contention.

Despite a desperate need for assets, Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong sent a similar message to his team, indicating the club had fought hard enough to earn a chance to get into the dance.

Important upcoming games…

• If the Coyotes are to prove they’re playoff-worthy, they’ll have to come out strong against Minnesota on Wednesday to stop the bleeding after a four-game losing streak. Three of their next four games are against Minnesota, with the fourth a huge matchup against St. Louis.

• Are the Blues heating up at the right time? A three-game win streak should give them a big boost of confidence as they head into a stretch that includes four games against Colorado.

• The Golden Knights, meanwhile, have an opportunity to take over the top spot in the West with what’s looking like their easiest stretch of the season. All of their next seven games are against one of the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, or Sharks.


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