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Flames beat Jets, make both bubbles more interesting

Montreal Canadiens v Calgary Flames

CALGARY, CANADA - MARCH 9: Jay Bouwmeester #4 and Matt Stajan #18 of the Calgary Flames take out Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets in second-period NHL action on March 9, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

Mike Ridewood

With a 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames squeezed five out of a possible six points out of their five game homestand and made things more interesting in both conferences’ bottom seed races. (They also helped Miikka Kiprusoff hit the 30-win mark for the seventh season in a row, according to The Associated Press.)

West update

As you can see, the Western Conference playoff bubble got awfully congested thanks to the Los Angeles Kings’ recent failings and Calgary’s persistence. Here’s what the lower ranks look like right now:

7. Phoenix - 76 points with 14 games remaining
8. San Jose - 75 points with 16 GR

9. Calgary - 74 points with 14 GR
10. Los Angeles - 74 points with 14 GR
11. Colorado - 74 points with 13 GR

12. Anaheim - 68 points with 14 GR
13. Minnesota - 68 points with 14 GR

You could probably drop the Ducks and Wild out of the discussion, but just in case, I placed them in the “snowball’s chance” group.

Moving on, Sports Club Stats reveals that tonight’s games improved Calgary’s playoff odds by 8.7 percent (at ninth place/35.3 percent) while dropping the Kings by 11.4 percent to 10th (31.4 percent). That site’s numbers are strongly in favor of three Pacific Division teams making the playoffs at the Flames’ expense - Dallas (85.9 percent), San Jose (74.8) and Phoenix (60.5) - but the bottom line is that Calgary is in a great position to earn a berth if one or more those teams falter.

Winnipeg’s shaky road

The Jets continue to struggle on the road, bumping their away record to 11-19-4. As I’ve mentioned before, their home dependence basically matches every Southeast Division team aside from Florida as Washington and Tampa Bay have also only won 11 road games.

From their perspective, a playoff spot basically comes down to either winning the division or taking the eight seed, which very well might come down to besting another team in the Southeast:

“3."Florida (currently third seed by default) - 75 points with 15 games remaining
8. Washington - 72 points with 15 GR

9. Winnipeg - 72 points with 13 GR
10. Buffalo - 70 points with 14 GR
11. Tampa Bay - 69 points with 15 GR
12. Toronto - 67 points with 15 GR

As you can see, losing to the Flames hurts the Jets badly. They could be in eighth place while trailing the Panthers by a mere point for the division (albeit with two fewer contests left). Instead, they’re in a tough spot, as Sports Club Stats bumped their playoff odds down a jarring 10.9 percent to 28.7 percent, well behind Washington’s 56.4.

Tonight’s match clearly had some significant implications, but the Flames and Jets likely have plenty of big challenges left - we’ll just have to see if those obstacles extend beyond April 7.