It's the Wild West.
And it could be a lot of fun.
As the National Hockey League regular season heads to the finish line there are many positions to be determined. About the only sure thing is that the Vancouver Canucks will be at the top of the heap.
The Calgary Flames? Well, despite gaining just two of a possible six points in California this week, they are not out of the post-season picture. Sure, they pretty much have to run the table. In order they need to beat Edmonton, Anaheim, St. Louis, Colorado, Edmonton again and Vancouver. It's evenly split with home and road games with Edmonton tomorrow, St. Louis and Colorado next week being the travel dates.
It's a daunting task, no doubt. But there is precedent. The Flames reeled off six straight wins from January 21 to February 2.
As disheartened as the Flames dressing room seemed following a 6-3 loss to San Jose on Wednesday, nobody was making excuses or calling the season over. In fact, the Flames are not thinking that way at all. They know teams in front of them have to play each other. They know that four of their remaining six games are against non-playoff teams in Edmonton (twice), Colorado and St. Louis.
“Our goal is to win out. We’ve got to play a lot better, a lot harder and a lot more confident than we’re playing right now,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla following the loss to San Jose.
That task begins on Saturday with a Hockey Night in Canada game against the struggling Oilers, losers of eight straight.
“There’s still 12 points out there and 97 points can get you in the playoffs. We’ve got to get one win, and when that’s over, focus on the next one,” said head coach Brent Sutter, who doesn't want the players thinking any further ahead than the next game.
It's a tried and true sports cliche but it what got the Flames back into the playoff picture beginning in December.
“The present is to continue to take it game by game. Everyone is looking at how many points you’ve got to have, what you’ve got to do from here on in, but we’ve got to just win one game," said Sutter.
And, in the Wild West, winning one game can make a big difference in the standings.
"We're in a situation where every point is so big for us," noted Sutter.
This next couple of weeks could be a lot of fun.