Sunday, April 10, 2016

Loop de Loop: Flames Fans Wrap up the NHL Season on an Emotional Roller-Coaster Ride

In a season in which bad goaltending cost the Calgary Flames a playoff spot, good goaltending cost them a draft lottery spot.

Oh, the irony.

Adding to the improbable nature of how an exhilarating final Saturday night of regular season hockey played out was the unlikely heroes for Calgary.

The three key contributors in the Flames 2-1 comeback win over Minnesota, which held a 31-11 edge in shots after two periods, were Niklas Backstrom, Brandon Bollig and Patrick Sieloff.

Pardon? Did you say those were the scratches?

Nope. You heard me correctly -- Backstrom, Bollig and Sieloff. The three stars. For real.

In what could very likely be Backstrom's final NHL start, the 38-year-old channelled his younger self in making 35 saves, many of them spectacular. This, of course, coming after his former teammates lit him up for six goals on 29 shots in that same building two weeks ago.

Bollig, who had three goals in the last two seasons, notched the tying goal with 6:25 remaining in the third period. Adding to the night's unlikely storyline, the goal was set up by Turner Elson and Drew Shore, two guys that spent the entire season in the minors up until a few days ago.

But wait, there's more.

Thirty-one seconds later, Sieloff notched the game-winner on a seeing-eye backhander from the wing. A defensive defenceman by trade, appreciative recipient of what I'd describe as a 'reward' call-up for the finale with Deryk Engelland on the limp, Sieloff entered the night with a combined four goals over the past two seasons.

Time will tell but you may not be that far off to suggest the three principal figures in orchestrating the comeback that could negatively impact Calgary's future were three guys that quite possibly won't be part of that future.

Backstrom will be gone. Bollig, a frequent scratch, has one year left on his deal. Sieloff has been a healthy scratch throughout his second pro season and that's never a good sign. You get the impression he has been passed by a few too many on the depth chart.

Nonetheless, this was a night for those guys -- Backstrom and Sieloff, in particular -- and a night they will always remember, as PostMedia writer Wes Gilbertson nicely captured here.

Twilight Zone Kind of Night

Between the bizarre turn of events at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, the improbable Blue Jackets rally from a 3-0 second period deficit versus Chicago to win 5-4 in overtime (which had Calgary lost would have resulted in the Flames finishing 27th) and the Jets equally perplexing furious comeback from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout in Los Angeles (which had Winnipeg lost, would have resulted in the Flames finishing 25th), it really was one really, really wild and wacky finish to the season.

It was truly the kind of stuff that if you saw it in a movie, you would have rolled your eyes and muttered, "Right, like that would really happen."

In the end, Calgary finishes the season just as they started the day, in 26th place. From a draft perspective, their ranking and odds could have been better, but considering they went 9-6-3 over the final 18 games, that ranking could have been far worse too.

But it was definitely very compelling theatre for the fan spending Saturday night perched on the edge of their couch. Three teams with every opportunity to mail it in in game 82, and three teams that refused.

Implications on Draft Lottery Percentages

Being slotted at No. 5 in the inverse standings, otherwise known as the draft lottery standings, here are the calculus-like percentages that go with that given the new lottery set-up this year in which the first three picks are all chosen via lottery.

Now the percentages will actually shift after each of the lottery picks but this looks at the baseline math behind it going in.

The draft lottery goes April 30 so you have three weeks to hang out at Future Considerations and play around with their very addicting lottery simulator. Don't like how it shakes down? Just keep cranking the handle until you get the results you want, then cross your fingers and hope.

As a bonus offer with FC, you can then run a mock draft right afterwards based on their latest player rankings and see who the Flames end up with. They do an excellent job with ranking the draft prospects and will soon be publishing a draft guide that is must-own material.

But man, what a finish to the season. Who knew you didn't have to be anywhere near an actual playoff race to find meaningful games that came down to the final second. How much of a difference the Flames rally in Minnesota may or may not end up having will be hotly debated forever, especially if Columbus wins the lottery in the slot that would have belonged to Calgary. But c'est la vie.

One thing I know for certain. While the season may be over, the fun is just beginning.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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