Look at those Pacific Division standings.
The San Jose Sharks remain at the top. That’s not really a surprise. The Anaheim Ducks are seven points back. They’ve been a force in that division for years now.
And then you have the Calgary Flames. Yes, the Flames. On Saturday, they won their ninth consecutive game, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 to move to 80 points this season and second place in the division, jumping over the Ducks and provincial rival Edmonton Oilers.
Dougie Hamilton was a game-time decision, but by the time this game ended, he had three assists. Mikael Backlund, at age 27, continued the best season of his career, scoring his 21st goal late in the first period. It counted as the winner. Known to be an agitating forward at times, Matthew Tkachuk added an assist, his 32nd, as he continues to make an impact as a 19-year-old rookie.
This is a team getting plenty of offensive contributions outside of the usual suspects in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Remember in 2015 when they built a reputation as the comeback kids, qualifying for the playoffs with the 28th-ranked Corsi For percentage at five-on-five and the fifth best PDO? It didn’t seem at all sustainable for the future and they finished 10 points out of a playoff spot the following year.
Poor special teams and too many goals against were among the reasons for a coaching change last spring.
Fast-forward a year later, and this is a Flames team that has accrued strong possession numbers at five-on-five.Subpar goaltending was something GM Brad Treliving took responsibility for last year, and he took steps to remedy that.
He traded for Brian Elliott and signed Chad Johnson as a free agent. Lately, Elliott has been solid for Calgary. In his last 10 starts, only once has he allowed more than two goals in a single game. He now has back-to-back shutouts.
The Flames can extend their winning streak to 10 games when they face the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.