The Calgary Flames have been consistently sharp for much of the first half of the 2018-19 season. They’ll be spending their Christmas break in a somewhat unfamiliar position – first place in the Pacific Division.
Based on their recent hot streak, the Flames are in a position standings-wise that they haven’t been in years.
Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game with the St. Louis Blues, the Flames have 47 points – a product of their 22-11-3 record – and sit in first place in the Pacific. They’re four points up on both the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks, with both those clubs having 43 points. The Flames have a regulation and overtime win (ROW) edge on both those teams, so if they ended up in a points tie the Flames would maintain position due to that tiebreaker.
The Sharks play the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon and the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night so they could potentially catch the Flames, but they would lose the tiebreaker. The Ducks play just once more (against Buffalo) before the holiday break, so they’re not going to catch the Flames. As a result, the Flames are mathematically guaranteed to be in first place at Christmas. It’s the first time they’ve done that since 2008.
Here are their positions at their last five Christmases:
- 2017: one point out of the playoffs
- 2016: second wild card
- 2015: six points out of the playoffs
- 2014: two points out of the playoffs
- 2013: 12 points out of the playoffs
The Flames made the playoffs in 2014-15 and 2016-17, and fell apart down the stretch last season. But you can see how important it is to be within striking distance this late in the season. This year’s team isn’t just within striking distance, they’re setting the pace.
The Flames have been in first place since Nov. 29. The earliest that the Ducks or Sharks can pass the Flames in the standings is Dec. 27 – and that’s presuming the Flames don’t win a game in the interim. As a result, the Flames will be in first place in the Pacific for at least a month. It’s the longest time they’ve spent in that spot, aside from the first few weeks of each season, since the 2008-09 season.
Let’s not forget: the 2008-09 Flames were a veteran group beginning to hit their twilight and weren’t able to hold onto the division crown at the end of the season – they ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs. This year’s edition seems to be a team on the rise and it has yet to be seen how they’ll close out the regular season.