Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames: Outcome Is Huge for Both Teams

John BainCorrespondent IIMarch 31, 2012

CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 11: Lance Bouma #57 of the Calgary Flames takes on Mike Duco #79 of the Vancouver Canucks in first period NHL action on February 11, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)
Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

Tonight the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will meet for the second-to-last time this season in a game that is sure to be a barn-burner.

On paper, the match up doesn't appear to be any big deal, but for Canucks fans and Flames fans alike, this game has a lot of meaning on the two teams' respective futures. 

The marquee match up on CBC's famed Hockey Night in Canada has the two bitter rivals facing off with lots on the line for either side. For the Flames it's win or go home. If the Flames lose this one in regulation, they will be officially, mathematically eliminated from making it into the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. There are also several jobs on the hot seat including those of GM Jay Feaster, and head coach Brent Sutter, as this would be the third-consecutive season without a playoff appearance in Calagary.

Meanwhile, there won't be any mailing-it-in by the Canucks either. The Canucks could jump up into first place in the West based on the results of this game and the St. Louis Blues' game with the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier on today. 

The only circumstance that could place the Vancouver Canucks atop the Western Conference come day's end is as follows:

  • VAN win with STL Regulation Loss puts VAN on top with 107 PTS

But the Canucks could also tie the Blues (while remaining in second due to tiebreakers) with either of the following results:

  • VAN OTL with STL Regulation Loss puts VAN on top with 106 PTS (Tiebreaker to STL)
  • VAN win with STL Overtime Loss puts VAN on top with 107 PTS (Tiebreaker to STL)

In other words, Vancouver has no reason to mail their season in now when, with four games remaining, they still remain in striking distance of a second-consecutive President's Trophy and a Western Conference Crown. 

Head-to-head this season, the Canucks lead the season series 2-1-1. Compared to two early-season consecutive 5-1 victories over the Flames for the Canucks, the Flames have played the Canucks tighter in 2012, winning a game in shootout as well as having a 3-1 victory over the hometown team in late December.

All stats really should go out the window for this game. When the Canucks and Flames meet late in any season, it is rare that sparks don't fly. The rivalry isn't as it once was, but it is very much still in effect.

Look for Flames' captain Jarome Iginla to try and ignite his team and lead them to the playoffs, but also watch out for the hot Canucks to try and snuff any Flames' hope of the playoffs out.

Based on the Canucks' play of late, and Calgary's almost inevitable collapse, look for Vancouver to skate off the victors in this one. 

John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist

Follow Him on Twitter: @JohnBainSports