The Flames stand at 38-26-4 with 80 points, while the Oilers are 35-24-9 for 79 points.
Edmonton is coming off a loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, while Calgary is preparing for a Monday contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The numbers could shift very soon, but the prospect of such a vigorous provincial rivalry going right down to the wire is fun.
Consider that the Flames have won nine in a row and will seek their 10th straight against Pittsburgh, which will be a difficult task. But if you contemplate little things like momentum and timing, Calgary could actually do it.
And if the Flames do pull off the victory against the surging Penguins, they’ll tie the record set by the Atlanta Flames back in 1978.
Goalie Brian Elliott has been rocking the house as of late, posting a 2.51 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. When you recall how he was playing at the beginning of the season, when he posted an .882 save percentage over his first dozen games, it’s fair to say that he’s improved. Now, he’s first in wins overall since the All-Star break and he put together back-to-back shutouts.
In reality, the entire team has been cooking since the All-Star break and that has a lot to do with an evolving mentality.
The Flames recuperated from a terrible start, where they went 5-10-1 going into mid-November, and cleaned things up in all three zones. Some point to a January 24 loss to Montreal as a key turning point, what with head coach Glen Gulutzan laying into the club and holding a critical team meeting. Others point to lineup shuffling, especially after the acquisitions of Matt Bartkowski and Michael Stone.
The proof is in the pudding, regardless of the cause.
The Flames have received offence from all sides, with Mikael Backlund leading the team with 48 points and Michael Ferlund coming alive with eight goals during the streak for a total of 14 on the season. Eight different players have come up with game-winning goals over since January 26.
Sure, the Flames will be in tough against the Penguins. But the franchise is having fun and putting together wins like nobody’s business and that can count for a lot.
Plus, Calgary actually owns the edge in the season series. They beat Pittsburgh on February 7, stealing a shootout victory, and they’ve only lost once in regulation since then for a record of 10-1-1.
Right now, the Flames are only one point behind the Anaheim Ducks and well in line for a playoff performance worth remembering. While a lot of the buzz may be surrounding the Oilers and McDavid, Calgary won’t be going quietly. And if we’re lucky, the Battle of Alberta could rage on for quite a while.