One win, and the Flames will claim top spot to both the Pacific Division and Western Conference. One win, and they’ll clinch home ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs, should they make it that far.
It would be especially dramatic for that win to come against the Sharks.
The Flames ended February with a seven-game winning streak, and started March with a four-game losing streak. That briefly called for panic, especially as the Sharks were in the midst of a six-game winning streak – and, with that, briefly took over first place in the division and conference for like… five days.
Thanks to their losing streak coming at exactly the same time as the Sharks’ winning streak, the Flames had a new mission: keep pace with San Jose until the end of the month. As long as they did that, then they could continue to control their own destiny, setting themselves up for a potential winner-take-all battle when the two teams would meet for the final time in the regular season on March 31.
The Flames snapped their losing streak, winning seven of their last 10. The Sharks promptly went on a seven-game losing streak, making the March 31 game significantly less dramatic.
Heading into their final regular season matchup, here’s where things stand:
- The Flames have 103 points on the season, and 48 regulation or overtime wins (ROW). The maximum number of points they can get this year is 111, and their maximum potential ROW is 52.
- The Sharks have 97 points on the season, and 44 ROW. The maximum number of points they can get this year is 105, and their maximum potential ROW is 48.
One more win for the Flames – no matter who that win comes against – clinches first place in both the Pacific Division and Western Conference (the Jets, presently the top team in the Central, can only get a maximum of 102 points this season). Two more points for the Flames ties the maximum the Sharks can possibly earn, and as long as their win comes in regulation or overtime (not in the shootout – not that the Flames have won a single shootout this season, but hey, no shootouts in the playoffs), then they’ll have clinched 49 ROW: and with it, the tiebreaker over San Jose, no matter what else happens.
It would be particularly fitting for the Flames to clinch top spot by defeating the Sharks Sunday night; then, the Sharks’ maximum potential points would be a mere 103 (or 104, if it’s in overtime), mathematically eliminating them from catching the Flames.
But even if the Sharks win Sunday night, all the Flames would have to do is beat one of the Kings, Ducks, or Oilers – three sub-.500 teams – to clinch first in the division and conference.
It’s not over yet. It’s still entirely possible the Flames drop four straight and the Sharks win out. After all, who saw the Sharks losing seven straight to almost directly hand the division and conference to Calgary?
But the odds are very much in the Flames’ favour.
Sunday night is the last night the Flames will face a playoff-caliber team before, you know, the actual playoffs. Here’s to an interesting night in which nobody gets hurt – but here’s also to the security the Flames have spent an entire season accumulating for themselves that’s gotten them to the point of needing just one more win.