When the Calgary Flames first started talking about winning two of every three games to make the playoffs, it sounded absurd.
Times were bleak at Christmas when Flames players talked of earning four points from every six they could collect from then until the end of the season, noting it would be enough to earn a playoff berth.
“You want to win every game, but our focus has to be two out of every three. It’s possible,” said captain Jarome Iginla when the team reconvened on Boxing Day, maybe the first time a player said it publicly. “It’ll be some great hockey to get back in and make the playoffs, we know that, but from our point of view, it’s possible.”
Sure, it was possible, but let’s face facts: it didn’t seem probable for the Flames. If we were talking about the Detroit Red Wings or Vancouver Canucks winning at that pace, you bet.
But the Flames? They were below .500, even with loser points counting as ties.
Finishing with a top-10 draft choice — maybe even top-five — appeared more likely.
The guffaws were muffled out of respect.
Actually, fitting the dressing room with rubber walls may have been considered because the concept seemed so loony.
When Iginla said those words his team was coming off a big win, a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout effort in Dallas Dec. 23.
However, that win snapped a three-game losing skid with defeats at the hands of the Minnesota Wild in both halves of a home-and-home series and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flames were down to 14th place in the Western Conference, ahead of only Edmonton.
So, again, winning two of three seemed completely out to lunch.
Guess what? They’ve done it. In fact, they’re on the exact path if you go back all the way to the Dec. 16 home victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
(If you start at any point from the now famous win over Dallas, they’ve even gone beyond that pace.)
If the Flames continue to the end of the regular season — 12 games remaining, so the equivalent of eight victories — the Flames not only should earn a playoff spot, but could actually be as high as the fourth or fifth seed.
How’s that for an eye-opener?
Starting with Saturday night’s home clash with the league-leading Vancouver Canucks, the Flames need eight victories to reach 97 points.
That would be enough to earn a trip to the Stanley Cup tournament even if every other team in the conference continues their current winning percentage prior to Friday night’s action.
However, when you factor into the equation all the games the five Pacific Division squads have against each other, it’s likely a 97-point pace will do more than just sneak a team into the fray.
Plus, the Flames schedule softens a touch after the Canucks leave town.
Seven of Calgary’s final 11 games are against teams outside the west’s top eight.
And the final clash is against a Cnaucks team won’t be skating for anything other than to see if a Sedin can win the scoring title for a second straight year.
The Flames said they believe they can win two of three for more than half the season. They put themselves in position to do it.
You have to give out the kudos if they complete what seemed the impossible.