On Thursday night, the Calgary Flames won a hockey game. By virtue of their 4-0 win over Winnipeg, they advanced through the NHL’s qualifying round and into the actual 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

So, what happens now?

Well, the Flames are officially the fifth Western Conference team to advance – they’ll join Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis and Vegas in the first round when it begins early next week.

Now, who the Flames play depends on a few factors.

The seeding for the first round is both straight-forward and frustratingly flexible:

  • The best round robin team vs. the worst qualifying round winner
  • The second-best round robin team vs. the second-worst qualifying round winner
  • The second-worst round robin team vs. the second-best qualifying round winner
  • The worst round robin team vs. the best qualifying round winner

Here’s what we know right now:

  • Either Colorado or Vegas will be the best round robin team. (They play each other on Saturday.)
  • Either St. Louis or Dallas will be the worst round robin team. (They play each other on Sunday.)

So, which spot among the qualifying round winners will the 8th-seeded Flames fall into? Well, we could know by the end of Friday’s action.

  • At 12:30 p.m. MT, the 11th-seeded Arizona Coyotes could eliminate the 6th-seeded Nashville Predators
  • At 4:45 p.m. MT, the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks could eliminate the 5th-seeded Edmonton Oilers
  • At 8:45 p.m. MT, the 7th-seeded Vancouver Canucks could eliminate the 10th-seeded Minnesota Wild

If all the teams that can eliminate their opponents do so, then the Flames will be the second-best qualifying round winner and they’ll face the second-worst round robin team (e.g., the winner of Sunday’s St. Louis/Dallas game). If Nashville and/or Edmonton can rally back and win their series in five games, then the Flames will be pushed down the seeding chart a bit and as a result face either Colorado or Vegas.

(If you’re hoping for the Flames to get an “easier” match-up, start cheering for the lower-seeded teams in the three remaining series.)

The situation is very fluid, but the picture could be much clearer in 24 hours. Or Minnesota, Nashville and Edmonton could stave off elimination and things could remain frustratingly murky.

Either way, the Flames will be playing hockey for another couple weeks yet.