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Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a win streak makes

Three weeks ago, on Feb. 20, the Flames were waiting to face the Nashville Predators. Their bye was over; they’d responded to it with a 5-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Before then, they looked like they’d been turning a corner, but it was a rough night. Two games later Ryan Miller had dominated them yet again, and the Flames found themselves just barely occupying the last wild card spot, with Los Angeles right on their heels.

They still had to play the Kings another four times. Those games were going to decide the Flames’ season, weren’t they? Not to mention we still had to keep an eye out for both St. Louis and Nashville, because chances were the Flames would be fighting with them for a wild card spot, too.

Those were the teams to watch: Los Angeles. Nashville. St. Louis.

They played Nashville the next night, and kicked off the start of what would become – and hopefully still is, knock on wood – a lengthy win streak. It was a nonsensical game that ended in a 6-5 overtime victory; one filled with a elation and a bit of annoyance, if you were so inclined. After all, Nashville was one of the teams the Flames had to be on guard for, and giving up a loser point to them didn’t help matters – and, in fact, kept the Predators ahead in the standings.

Today, the Preds sit third in the Central division, and have three fewer points than the Flames.

Today, Los Angeles, Nashville, and St. Louis are still teams that hold interest, but they aren’t the main ones to watch anymore. Nowadays, the ones to watch are Anaheim and Edmonton: two teams that held two of the top three divisional spots, with San Jose probably out of reach (they’re nine points ahead with the same number of games played, so barring something catastrophic, they’ve probably got a good handle on first place).

Before the win streak, Anaheim and Edmonton were 10 points ahead. No point in thinking about them, right? Today, if the Flames extend their streak to 10 games (again, yes, knock on wood), they’ll be ahead of both of them.

The fight to just make the playoffs has turned more into a fight for home ice in the playoffs. The former isn’t a guarantee just yet, but it would take another catastrophic collapse – another end of January-like stretch – to put them in danger again. That’s not out of the question, but a prolonged losing streak certainly doesn’t seem to be in the Flames’ cards, at least not the way they’ve been playing overall. (Though some of their play has left something to be desired at points throughout this streak.) If anything, they probably aren’t crumplers anymore, at the very least.

Sure, the win streak isn’t sustainable. The Flames are probably going to lose games again this season. But right now, that doesn’t matter, because the Ducks, Oilers, Kings, Predators, and Blues are all going to lose games this season, too.

The point is the reset button has been hit. If you looked at these current standings back in October, you wouldn’t see that the Flames had a nine-game win streak to vault them into a divisional playoff spot; you’d see that they’re simply in a divisional playoff spot. A season is the sum of its parts, and this is just one of those parts. It counts just as much as a poor October or January.

And this isn’t the percentage-driven 2014-15 team. This isn’t a team ready to contend, either, but it’s one much further along than that one was. And though winning every game isn’t sustainable, their style of play is – and it’s their play that’s giving them a chance once again.

  • Deef

    Why is everyone saying that the team isn’t ready to contend? Have we been watching this team lately?

    We have a hotter-than-hot goaltender, two lines that can score, one line thats glorious for shutdown, two strong minute munching D pairings. The only thing lacking is an effective bottom 6/3rd pairing. I honestly think this team has a shot if they keep this up, especially if they get home ice advantage.

    • Parallex

      Because “lately” isn’t the sum total of the team any more then the horrific start was. I don’t think anyone can rightly look at the Flames and confidently think this is a legit Stanley Cup contender… we could be the playoff Cinderella… but Playoff Cinderella and Stanley Cup contender are different. And that’s okey, it’s a necessary step along the path.

    • Mort

      Lol. You’re doing the opposite of what all the doomsayers at the start of the season were doing. They were saying, “haven’t you been watching this team? We’re done, we’re out of the playoffs, fire Gulutzan, sell at the deadline.” Meanwhile, more reasonable people were saying “hey, we’re actually underperforming right now. You should expect the team’s performance to improve significantly from this in the long run.”

      Now what you’re saying is basically that we can keep this overperformance going. Which is statistically extremely unlikely.

      • Deef

        And you can’t attribute a horrific start to a new coach, new systems, new goaltenders, etc? What if it was just a matter of figuring it out? Not that hard to believe right?

        Take those early shakes away from the team (let’s say add another 5 wins) and we’re two points away from first in the west.

        “Real” Playoff contenders have winning streaks too guys.

  • deantheraven

    This team is percentage driven right now. Just look at the outrageous PDO. But that doesn’t discount the other points you made, Ari. I’d have to agree that they don’t look like crumplers anymore. One thing they have is confidenc. In the last game, first period, they were missing passes, missing checks and assignments, throwing the puck all over the place. Thank the Hockey Gods for Elliott playing lights out these days. He’s the one who enabled the team to find their feet and pot two on the PP to get things back on track. If their style of play stays as ‘sloppy but confident and patient’ they’ll get rolled by the contenders. Speaking of which, I think most teams are bigger than the Flames, too. They do their fair share of throwing the body around (I think they’re all playing bigger, to a man) but I’m not sure if confidence > beef when push comes to shove. Hope they keep on rollin’!

    • Danomitee

      Found Burke! Flames have shown up pretty well against the contenders, they still have problems of not fully showing up against teams behind them in the standings ie Jets. You have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good, sure the PDO is high but it’s a 9 game winning streak obviously things are going our way! I’m not gonna catch your contagious pessimism, win or lose lets just keep playing well and I like our chances in a 7 game series!

      • dontcryWOLF88

        Are the flames as good as this win streak would suggest? Naa, probably not. However, I think they are closer to that then they are to the team that came out of the gates in October. I don’t the truth is in the middle on this one.

        Also something to consider, sometimes luck leads to confidence, and then confidence leads to players meeting their real potential. When that occurs the statistical figures can catch up to luck and maintain that as the new benchmark