Flames in better shape than last Christmas

PETER MAHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

If you think you got a great Boxing Day bargain today, it may not be as great as the deal the Calgary Flames have as they set to emerge from their Christmas siesta.

Despite the much-less-than-sensational showing in October and November and in spite of a home record that ranks 19th in the league, the Flames actually are in better shape standing-wise than they were a year ago on this date.

When the Flames returned to the ice after a two-day holiday respite last year, they weren't in a playoff position in the Western Conference. They were in ninth place, one point out of the post-season picture. Today's Flames are seventh in the West -- two points up on the No. 9 slot.

The picture isn't quite as pretty for Mike Keenan's crew in the Northwest Division but still very much salvageable.

As they prepare to play in Vancouver tomorrow, the Flames are fourth in the Northwest, three points in arrears of the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks, who are setting the pace.

Last Boxing Day, the Flames were also fourth but a mere one point behind the Avs, the Minnesota Wild and the Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks were in the basement at the Christmas break a year ago but would finish 32-8-6 to win the division pennant by a single point.

The Flames are in the thick of things, thanks to a December record that could turn out to be their best ever.

Twice the Flames have collected 22 points in December; they'll require at least five out of a possible six points in the final three games to eclipse that.

There are still some people around the NHL who consider overtime or shootout losses as ties, since one point is gained from such endeavours.

In the old days, the current Flames 11-game point streak would be considered an 11-game unbeaten streak.

During the shootout era, the 11-game point streak is a club record.

If you go by the old way, it ties the third longest point streak in Flames history. The record is 13, established in October-November 1988 by the team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

On the subject of Cup winners, the Flames' recent NHL record-tying performance of six straight wins on the same road trip brings an interesting historic note. The other teams that achieved the same standard were the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, the Philadelpia Flyers in 1983 and the Boston Bruins in 1972.

The Red Wings and Bruins would go on to lift Lord Stanley's mug.

Tomorrow night against the Canucks, the Flames will be looking for their seventh straight road conquest.

If attained, it would match a club record set in October-November of '88.

Lately, the question of "when was the last time" has been asked a lot about the Flames.

This one from our Fan960 hockey game producer, Tim Kallil: "When was the last time a Flame player notched a hat trick in the Saddledome?"

You have to go back to Feb. 3, 2004 when Jarome Iginla scored three times against the Los Angeles Kings.

Here's wishing you and yours a clear road to success in 2008.


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