So many Calgary Flames players have enjoyed reaching new standards this season en route to claiming the Pacific Division title.
Now, their coach can breathe rare air as the Flames (50-20-11, 111 points) finish their regular season on the road against the Winnipeg Jets (37-32-11, 85 points) on Friday. Darryl Sutter needs one more victory to reach 700 for his career, which would move him into a tie with Mike Babcock for 10th on the league’s all-time list.
“Not many guys. How old is the league?” Sutter said. “Coaches are judged on three things: Stanley Cups, wins, playoffs. That’s, at the end of the day, what counts.”
The Flames, who will face either the Nashville Predators or Dallas Stars to kick off the playoffs, are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. Although their playoff berth is secure, the Flames have not been coasting at season’s end.
Calgary gave the Wild — who are fighting for home-ice advantage in their coming playoff series — and the Predators, a team trying to claim the first Western Conference wild-card spot, hard-fought games this week.
“These are big games for them and I thought we played well for the most part,” forward Johnny Gaudreau said.
In Minnesota, Gaudreau reached the 40-goal mark, giving Calgary a trio of 40-goal scorers, with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm the others, for just the third time in franchise history.
“Those two have been playing great all year,” said Gaudreau, who is tied for second place in the league’s scoring race with a career-best 115 points. “Getting the chance to play with them all year has been a lot of fun for me. I’ve been very fortunate to play with some really good players in my career and these two are right up there at the top of the list.”
The Jets head into their penultimate game of the season — they will host the Seattle Kraken on Sunday — looking to finish on a high note in what’s been a shocking campaign in which they feel well short of the playoffs.
“We came in here with a belief that we knew we were going to be a playoff team. That’s how we came into training camp,” forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. “It was a matter of having the right mentality, playing the right way, and doing all the small things right. I think when you look back now, in this league you have to be a little more humble than that. We didn’t play enough good games, obviously, or else we wouldn’t be sitting here right now. That’s on us, that’s on no one else.”
The Jets continued their final homestand with a convincing 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, a second consecutive home win following a 2-7-1 slump killed their playoff hopes.
The one player who has been outstanding all season is forward Kyle Connor, who is tied for fifth in the league with a career-high 46 goals and has collected 92 points, the most by a Jets player since the franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.
“It’s not like I’m popping champagne because I hit a certain amount of goals or something,” Connor said. “You put in all the hard work and so when the results come, you’re ready for it, you’re ready for this stage.”
–Field Level Media