Last season, sports bettors that are also big risk takers cashed in big betting on the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Pacific Division as an expansion team. If they stuck with Vegas in the postseason to win the Western Conference, they were smiling all the way to the bank.

The big story in the Pacific Division this season has been the Calgary Flames. While the Golden Knights were on their way to the top of the standings in that magical run, the Flames were on their way to a fifth-place finish. You would have to go all the way back to the 2005/2006 regular season to find the last time Calgary won a division title.

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The current standings in the Pacific point to that dry spell coming to an end. Through 53 games, Calgary (73 points) has a four-point lead over the San Jose Sharks in the division race. Its overall record is 34-14-5 after going 8-1-1 in its last 10 games. The Flames have 17 wins at home and 17 wins on the road which could be the biggest plus to their chances to seal the deal with a Pacific Division title.

Intertops online sportsbook likes their chances as heavy -154 favorites to maintain that lead. Calgary’s impressive turnaround this season has been fueled by left winger Johnny Gaudreau with a team-high 29 goals and 45 assists. His 74 total points are ranked fourth in the NHL as part of the team’s 3.72 goals per game average this is ranked second. When it comes to the other end of the ice, the duo of David Rittich and Mike Smith in goal have Calgary tied for eighth in the league in goals allowed (2.83). This is the kind of balance that should lead the Flames to the Pacific Division title.

Moving down the NHL futures board to win this division, San Jose is second on the list at +185 followed by the Golden Knights at +750. After that, the betting odds go really long with Vancouver at +6600. Edmonton and Arizona are next at +10000 and Anaheim’s odds are set at +15000. The once mighty Los Angeles Kings are about as long as it gets at +50000.

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Going all the way back to the late ’90s, Sharks have qualified for the postseason in 17 of their last 19 seasons. However, they have not won a division title since 2011. In this year’s race, San Jose has lost a bit of ground at 7-3 in its last 10 games as part of an overall record of 31-16-7 in its first 54 games. Its record at home is 18-4-4 against a 13-12-3 mark on the road. Head-to-head against Calgary, the series is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Feb. 7. The two will meet one more time this season in San Jose on March 31.

The biggest thing going for the Sharks in this heated race is veteran leadership. Center Joe Pavelski continues to lead the way with 29 goals and defenseman Brent Burns has tallied 48 assists. This is the fourth-highest scoring team in the league with 3.57 goals a game, but it has had its issues on defense with a goals-against average of 3.11. This could be San Jose’s Achilles heel both in this race and in the playoffs.

The chance that Vegas closes the gap with Calgary in the standings has been hampered with just four wins in its last 10 games to fall nine points off the pace. The Golden Knights are 30-21-4 overall in 55 games. They could make a big run down the stretch, but I would not bet on it.

The Sharks should be able to keep Calgary looking over its shoulders for the rest of the regular season. Given the current betting odds, San Jose has to be seen as the best value pick in this NHL futures bet.

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