San Jose Sharks are poised to take over first place

San Jose Sharks are poised to take over first place

March 09, 2019 7:33 AM


The race for the Pacific Division title could flip tonight, with the San Jose Sharks poised to take over first place with a victory and, while the Vegas Golden Knights need to win in Calgary to knock the Flames from the top rung on the division ladder.

The Sharks, with captain Joe Pavelski and all-star defenseman Brent Burns still playing well-enough despite the flu, are on a tear since winning three straight overtime contests in late January, then continuing the streak with a victory in Calgary.

But the focus here is on the Flames and the statistical reasons while a flame-out is occurring.

The biggest farce of a stat making the rounds through the national media is Calgary’s scoring differential in the third period. Entering Saturday, the Flames ranked first in goals scored (95) and goals allowed (56) for an NHL-leading margin of +39.

Although impressive, such numbers have completed altered ever since San Jose won in Southern Alberta, 5-2, on Feb. 7. In the ensuing month, Calgary’s third-period prowess has disappeared. 

In Calgary’s last 15 contests, it owns just a 7-6-2 record (7-8 against the spread), with that marvelous third-period margin dropping a full 10 goals from a season-high +49. Included was a -1 against the Knights this past Wednesday, when Vegas scored the lone third-period goal to take a 2-1 verdict.

It’s an indication that opponents are getting more physical to stop the free-skating Flames attempt to emulate the Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers by out-scoring opponents.

In the other periods, Calgary is even in the first stanza, and +2 in the second 20 minutes. Opponents have learned to jump on the Flames early, then settle down and play defense -- gee, sounds like changes found in Stanley Cup Playoff action (another reason Calgary won’t come close to “hoisting the hardware”).

A counter argument is Calgary’s record of 7-13-2 when trailing after two periods,, one short of the league high of eight by Winnipeg. But those wins came mostly in the first half of the season-- another phony stat unless you look deeper.

Count to zero

Another “easy to calculate” stat is how a team does after getting shutout or scoring just a single goal.

To no one’s surprise, No. 1 overall Tampa Bay is 10-0 in this situation -- but do you really want to lay $4 or $5 on the Lightning?

Meanwhile, a team to wager on after such a poor offensive performance is-- of all clubs -- the Vancouver Canucks. The killer whales are 8-6 in this spot, with the one of the losses occurring on consecutive shutouts losses when the club was ravaged by injuries and illness in early January.

Still, wagering blindly on Vancouver at plus-money nearly each time has proven profitable. The same goes with Montreal (10-4) and Carolina (11-6).

How are the Flames doing in this situation? A record of just 3-5, including their last game, a 2-0 loss at Arizona. Should their sub-.500 mark continue, Vegas becomes an even better underdog wager.

Also, ever since the teams’ first meeting last season, when Vegas won in the Saddledome, the home club has capturing the ensuing six contests.

It’s just a reminder: no matter how you perambulate on your path to determine what team or total to wager on, there are always numbers to tell you to go the other way.

Cap notes

Expect news in Washington tonight, as Alex Ovechkin is one point away from becoming the 49th player in NHL history to amass 1,200 career points.

Earlier this week, Caps goalie Braden Holtby became the second-fastest to reach 250 wins after stopping Philadelphia. The milestone came in his 409th career game. The record was set by Montreal’s Ken Dryden (381 games).

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