Tight top scoring line defensive play is key to the Flames’ success – .

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Tight top scoring line defensive play is key to the Flames’ success – .


Of all the garish statistics Johnny Gaudreau has flaunted over his NHL career, perhaps none is more shocking and impressive than this.
Ditto for Matthew Tkachuk.

In the midst of Tuesday’s win over the Blackhawks, a rare Tkachuk roll in his own camp found itself in the back of Calgary’s net.

The goal ended a streak that no other NHL player could brag about, as it was the first time this season that Tkachuk had been on the ice for a 5v5 goal.

Ditto for his line mate, Gaudreau.

They were the last two players in the NHL with over 100 minutes of 5v5 ice time not to allow a goal.

Among forwards with more than 250 minutes 5v5, only one player comes close to such defensive perfection – his teammate Elias Lindholm, who has only been on the ice for two 5v5 goals in a quarterfinal. season.

Next on that list is the Red Wings ‘Filip Zadina with six, while the Jets’ Pierre Luc-Dubois and Kyle Connor have nine.

“They did a good job in our defensive zone,” Gaudreau said of his teammates, who exerted a stabilizing influence as he made huge strides in his approach to play in his own zone.

“Obviously Lindy is pretty good there. He’s good down and he pulls out pucks and sends them to us wingers on the wall. I think we are playing just well. Lots of fun right now.

Keep in mind that this is not a control line.

They form a scoring line, which they’ve mastered this year as well, spinning the puck several nights with the creativity of the hockey version of the Globetrotters.

No line in the NHL has played more line minutes than Calgary’s top unit, playing five minutes longer than Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.

Only a few lines scored more than the Flames line, which saw Gaudreau and Tkachuk score nine times, followed by Lindholm on eight. The trio combined for an NHL-high 23 goals (Tkachuk 9, Gaudreau 8, Lindholm 6) as a row, which only counts the goals they’ve scored when the three of them are on the ice. together. The Flames as a team have scored 14 goals while the three are on the ice 5-5, and allowed one (the +13 rating is a better in the NHL).

But none was more stingy defensively.

At this point, Lindholm leads the league with a plus-19 rating.

The next closest forward in the loop is Johnny Gaudreau at plus-15.

Tkachuk is plus-12.

Dominance.

Few league observers would have believed at training camp that Calgary would have one of the best lines in the league.

But even coach Darryl Sutter, who continues to remind the media that his team are starved of elite goals, recently admitted that they are one of the best lines in the league.

Sutter says their skill has helped set up the team’s secondary scorers like Andrew Mangiapane, who is among the league leaders with 15 goals.

“Who gets the most attention? Matthew and Lindy and Johnny, ”Sutter said, answering his own question.

“So you’d expect the guys behind them to fight who they’re playing, whether it’s in the checking department, the puck battle department, the possession department, or the scoring department. “

They certainly did, leading the team to a 12-3-5 record that puts Calgary atop the Western Conference.

The Flames lead the league with a plus-30 goal differential, thanks to a relentless forward failure that tilted the team’s possession stats, creating plenty of scoring opportunities and keeping the puck out of their way. own purpose.

Having the best goaltending tandem in the league also helps, as the Flames are the only team in the league with an average of less than two goals against per game.

Gaudreau is once again the energetic and committed magician of the game he was three years earlier when he finished with 99 points and fourth in the Hart Trophy vote.

His 23 points place him sixth in the NHL, alongside his teammates who are both in the top 25.

“They are two very smart and talented players,” said Gaudreau.

“I’ve said it before, you like to play with the players and try to create a chemistry. With two players like that, they can see the ice so well, and they play in the offensive zone.

“Sometimes at the blue line the game may not be there and the game is to throw it away.

“But they can make a skillful play to turn it into a 2 on 1 or a reckless run. “

Lindholm and Tkachuk have long been 200-footers with attacking potential, while Gaudreau continues to add defensive responsibilities to his repertoire.

His backchecking even included a big hit on Erik Haula on Sunday in Boston.

“I was just happy I knocked it over,” said the diminutive Gaudreau, who smiled when asked if this was a “comeback to the gym” moment (in honor of ‘a blast from Mark Giordano last year, he punctuated by yelling at the victim, “Back to the gym.”)

“No, I don’t deserve to say that. I belong to the gym, anytime.

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