NHL Playoff Preview: Jets, Flames Grab Spots for the First Time in Years

Jiri Hudler Calgary Flames AP

Out with the old and in with the new.

In defeating the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday, the Calgary Flames clinched a playoff spot for the first time in six years and eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champions all in one game.

“It was crazy,” beamed head coach Bob Hartley. “Guys were jumping. Sticks were flying everywhere. We could almost feel fans going through the glass.… It’s a great feeling. To pull through in front of our fans was a classy way to do it. The most important thing about was we did it in front of our fans. That was unbelievable. What a welcome from our fans. Throughout the game, we felt their support. Everyone that was coming in the rink this afternoon before the game was commenting that they were on MacLeod or downtown and there were busses that had ‘Go Flames Go.’ Plenty of flags and jerseys. Hey, there’s a fever out there.”

The Flames last won in the playoffs in 2004, when Jerome Iginla led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. But Hartley knew the 2014-2015 was going to be special.

“We believed in training camp,” he explained. “We really believed, because the way we finished last year gave us hope. It gave us belief. We’ve only made the playoffs. There’s much more to come. Of all the goals we wanted to accomplish, making the playoffs was only goal number one.”

The Winnipeg Jets never made it to the playoffs in their eight years in Atlanta. The team appeared to gain a new spark when they relocated to Winnipeg in 2011-2012. This playoff series is the city’s first since 1996, when the original Jets left for Phoenix. Winnipeg is a small market, but the fans make up for lack of numbers with an overflow of intensity.

“It’s like the best thing that could ever happen to me right now,” exclaimed super fan Marialys Gonzalez Cruz. “I love it and I think we have an amazing chance and we’re going to make it.”

CBC News captured the numerous Twitter posts from very happy Jets fans:

The St. Louis Blues clinched the Central Division while the Anaheim Ducks captured the Pacific Division. Both are currently tied with 107 points. The Nashville Predators won won the next spot in the conference and the Blackhawks took fourth. The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks wrap up the picture.

Betting outlets picked the Kings, Boston Bruins, and Chicago Blackhawks as the favorites for the Cup. The Kings and Bruins are eliminated. Only Chicago out of the three stands a chance to capture the treasured prize.

While Chicago is one of the favorites to win the Cup, the team plays on a sluggish streak. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Superstar Patrick Kane broke his collarbone on February 24, but he could be back in time for the playoffs. On Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Kane took to the ice for practice shots.

“He’s progressing real well,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “Every day, it seems like he’s getting a little stronger. His skating’s always been fine. He’s handling the puck extremely well. It’s good signs every day, seeing the progress.”

Here are the opening-round matchups in the West:

St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets
Vancouver Canucks vs. Calgary Flames