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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Flames, Sharks face tight battle for Pacific Division crown

The unthinkable has happened: the Flames are no longer in first place in the Pacific Division. A four-game losing streak, combined with a Sharks four-game winning streak, has seen San Jose overtake top spot in the division – by all of one point.

Both teams have 14 games left in the season. At this stage, they’re competing with one another for division placement, barring a major Golden Knights surge and collapse on their own parts. The prize? Avoiding a tough divisional first round matchup, and, in theory, securing a less laborious pass through the playoffs. Let’s see how it breaks down.

Flames opponent Opp P% Sharks opponent Opp P%
Golden Knights .587 Wild .536
Devils .428 Jets .627
Rangers .500 Panthers .515
Jets .627 Predators .593
Blue Jackets .581 Golden Knights .587
Senators .377 Kings .412
Canucks .471 Ducks .457
Kings .412 Red Wings .426
Stars .551 Blackhawks .493
Ducks .457 Golden Knights .587
Sharks .662 Flames .654
Kings .412 Canucks .471
Ducks .457 Oilers .493
Oilers .493 Avalanche .522
Average opp P% .501 .527

For all of the Flames’ present woes, they still have the easier schedule. In the NHL, it isn’t too difficult to be a .500 team – thanks, loser point – as only eight teams this season presently have a points percentage under .500. And yet, the Flames’ opponents, all together, only just barely pass the .500 mark. The Sharks have some weaker opponents to come, too, but not as many as the Flames.

Let’s do an extremely rough forecasting: say both the Flames and Sharks defeat each team with a points percentage under .500, but only win half of their remaining games against teams .500 and above.

Eight of the Flames’ remaining 14 opponents have a points percentage under .500, while the Sharks have six. This rough forecasting would see the Flames end the season with 111 points, and for the Sharks, 110.

In other words: it could be a very tight finish to the end of the season. The Flames do have the advantage, schedule-wise, but they’ll need to get back into gear as soon as possible. Maybe the realization of just how close the Sharks are to them in the standings – they’ve seen their divisional lead completely evaporate over the past week – will help in achieving that.

There’s one game, though, that the rough forecasting doesn’t properly account for: March 31, when, in both teams’ fourth final game of the regular season, the Flames and Sharks will face off against one another. If both teams can keep pace, then that game could decide who wins the Pacific Division. Let’s also note that, at this time, the Flames and Sharks are pretty much dead even in tiebreakers: they both have 41 regulation or overtime wins (neither team has won a shootout this season); the Flames have a +39 goal differential whereas the Sharks are at +36; and, if the Flames defeat the Sharks in regulation, they’ll be tied with four points apiece claimed from the other team, dead even in the season series.

Should the race come right down to the wire, then Game 82 for both teams will be on April 6. The Flames game starts at 8:00 p.m. MT; the Sharks at 8:30 p.m. MT.

Four weeks left – and it’s as close as it’s ever been.

  • Puck Head

    Let’s not kid ourselves. There is no such thing as an easy game for this team. We’re not exactly known for stomping our opponents and suffocating them.

  • Hockey4life

    The way the Flames are playing they are going to lose home ice to Vegas next. It’s time for these boys to start playing like they care and getting into the battle areas.

  • The OG

    I want to believe that the Flames have a chance at division title but they have looked like hot garbage since the All Star break. To be a tight race with SJS means the Flames have to actually start showing up to big games. History of being a lifelong fan says they will Coast into the playoffs and lose 1st round.

    I really hope I’m wrong…

      • Skylardog

        8-7-2 since the break, -4 goal differential, and just 20th in points earned since Feb 1. Hot garbage considering this is a team that is looking to contend for a cup.

        But don’t worry. The 54.90% CF% means they will all get a sticker on their duffle bag.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          No, Skylar, it’s not hot garbage. It’s a slump.

          I’ve noticed that with certain fans, if the Flames lose more than one in a row, they lose their minds. Sometimes I think it’s more about writing a comment than the comment itself. With some people, anyway (seriously, not you, though, I enjoy your stuff, Skylar)

          The real truth is that this team may be nowhere near a cup. Or we could be a Smith hot streak away from the silver. We’re untested in our first year of contention, facing our first real taste of adversity, and suddenly it’s hot garbage.

          What I do know is that we’re top five in the league with what, 16 games to go? And then this whole regular season and all the overreaction of fans will disappear. Forgotten when the playoffs start.

          We can’t go 82-0, guys. It’s okay if we don’t win the division this year. This season has been awesome.

          Take it for what it is.

          • His Dudeness

            No no no BTF. The whole team has been garbage. We won 7 in a row by pure luck!! It couldn’t be that we are in a goal scoring slump. No we have been HOT GARBAGE. I wish we were the Oilers actually. The oilers are not garbage. Look Draisaitl has 40 goals. We don’t have any 40 goal scorers……

  • Luter 1

    I want to see them come out and battle for every inch, including guys like Mony, Brodie, Frolik. If they don’t tonight, expect them to go down with a whimper in the playoffs. Been saying all year, too soft but all the tree huggers on this site loved the ice-capades early season games, now when real hockey starts where is our grit? Well Tre didn’t go out and get that component for the team so now your stuck with finding it from within. As a Flames fan I hope they do but unfortunately we have some guys that have proven they’re not built for that hockey.

    • Joel Ottos Jock

      The treehuggers? Any credibility you may have had is gone in my eyes. Why not just call people libtards while you’re at it? You forgot to mention how this was Notleys fault for having a carbon tax.

      • Luter 1

        Using Joel Otto as your handle is a discredit if you think this team is tough enough or built for the playoffs. His group would have chased these guys out of the rink. Yes I do blame Notley and Trudeau by the way, prime example Stone gets an extra million or two in tax savings playing in the States. Another 10 years no one will want to play in Canada.

        • Joel Ottos Jock

          I dont argue this team is soft and not built for the playoffs or to my liking, but bringing politics into a hockey forum that isnt about building arenas from tax payers money..get a life. I wouldnt want to play in calgary either if I could go play somewhere warm. As far as not wanting to play where races are high, explain why players want to play in New York.

  • MontanaMan

    The boys will turn it around but their lack of size still worries me for a long playoff run. Having said that, anyone that would have predicted that the Flames would be in a battle with the Sharks for first at this point of the season would have been committed.

    • Franko J

      They have definitely exceeded expectations as to where they are in the standings. They might have surprised other teams earlier in the season but now with the playoffs looming other teams have ramped up their game where as the Flames they look like they are floundering.

    • HOCKEY83

      Height They are near the tops in the league…weight they are in the middle. They do have a young team with a couple of old guys bringing their average up. These young guys just need a year or 2 to gain their man weight

  • Franko J

    Although the schedule should favour the Flames there are a number of games where the team has had their fair share of struggles. For one Dallas has owned them the past two seasons, CBJ have won what five or six straight at the Saddledome. Not to mention their poor play in their own division.
    I think by the time they play SJS it will be a matter of not competing for first in the division but a circumstance of fighting off VKN for home ice in the first round.

  • Joel Ottos Jock

    I believe this is a case of teams taking the Flames lightly earlier in the season, a couple players playing over their heads, and just some plain luck. By the lack of moves, I do not believe management believes this is the team to try and win it with (I agree. Way too many holes.) I just hope that BT makes some more offseason noise. This team is in trouble if not, trying to compete with the likes of Vegas, San Jose, Winnipeg, Nashville, moving forward.

  • Franko J

    Forecasting the schedule I predict the Flames will win only 6 if their next 14 games. Giving them 101 points. Which is good enough for a spot in the post season. However it will be short lived.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Tonight’s game is going to tell us about what this team is made of. That’s all there is to say. Either we’re tough enough to play playoff hockey or not.

  • Skylardog

    At 21 games over 500, they sit just 1 game back of SJ at 22. I get the feeling that difference is insurmountable given how they are playing. The March funk rears its ugly head once again.

    The lead on Vegas is 8, with a game in hand, and the Knights at just 12 games over 500. With just 14 to play, that should be way out of reach, right?

    I will be honest, I have no problem with a slide, they happen every season to every team. However, the lack of change in the lineup to shake things up gives me more than a little cause for concern. I am starting to get the feeling that Peters has no solutions on how to end this slump. Beaking at them before last game had zero impact and saw one of the worst outings of the season. How do you get shut out against Arizona?

    Five goals in the last 4 games, 14 in the last 8, and it is status quo up front? Wow.

    • The Feenis

      Add in the fact we haven’t beat a western conference playoff team since 2018…(sharks game on NYE)
      I have a feeling it’s going to be gut wrenching month.

  • MDG1600

    It is the time of year when pretty tic tac toe passing by the top line just isn’t going to fill the net the way it did in January. BP keeps trying Tkachuk with Johnny and Mony to try and add some grit but Byng likes to slow things down and it seems to throw the whole line out of sync at 5 on 5. Better they face the reality of their shortcomings now and see if they can adapt and find a way to score before the playoffs start.

  • Trevy

    It’s time for some players to step up, especially in goal. Although it’s better to go through a little adversity now instead of right before the playoffs, this team needs to start getting it together and get back to what propelled them to first. One of Rittich or Smith needs to step up and claim the number 1 spot and players like Monahan and a Tkachuk need to get there mojo back. I love the fact BP is going back to the lines that started our run to first place. This is where we see what this team is made of. Good teams will ride it out, great teams will come back stronger than before. Overall, everyone needs to find that extra gear and ramp it up, cause Vegas and SJ are heating up

  • Alberta Ice

    Had to laugh out loud at the opening line: “The unthinkable has happened”. Er, the Sharks winning the Pacific has been the thought of pundits before this season even began. Probably the unthinkable was and is Calgary doing so well and being ahead of the Sharks for so long. In reality, the Golden Knights may be just as tough an out as the Sharks. Hopefully the Flames will shake off the exhaustion of their travel schedule and the high expectations now placed upon them and get back to the basics that have made them a very good team for most of this year. GFG.

  • FlamesFanFromMI

    I read articles on FN and comments. I prefer not to say much . But here are my thoughts
    For people who are saying flames are soft I disagree. Last 4 games they have the puck but can’t gain offensive zone because for whatever reason. They decide to shoot the from blue line with no screen in front. Johnny getting pushed down and get extremely frustrated. Monahan is battling some kind of injury. We are missing the heart the will to win. The fire that says we hate to lose and will do whatever it takes.
    Goalie??? Well Smith is cocky SOB the first game we lost was on him why the heck you were behind the goal is beyond me. Then in interview he said “ we have to be better” no you idiot you have to be better and don’t take unnecessary risks. Gully got fired cause he was loyal to his guys, aren’t we doing the same thing with Smith? BSD gives 2 bad goals and get pulled Mike cost us 4 games and still the decent starter? Ok then.
    I heard puck luck it’s not going in for us, really??? Wasn’t it the same thing we said when we lost playoff series against stupid Ducks? We make our own luck, crash the damn net tell the goalie to stop the puck going in instead of trying to play defense. Don’t care how big the team is play your heart out then if you lose you lose. It’s not the size of the dog it’s the fight in the dog. I never have problem with losing the game I have problem with how we played.
    The good thing is we don’t have to deal with Smith and his cocky attitude.