Johnny Gaudreau has 79 points (21g, 58a) in 70 games this year. 18 more than last year and setting a new career high with 12 games to go. Sean Monahan has 61 points (30g, 31a) in 69 games. 3 more than last year and like Gaudreau on pace for a new career high.
So, while reading this article you’re probably thinking “they both have career years, shouldn’t the rest of the team do something?”. Yeah that may be true, although the 2nd line of Backlund, Tkachuk and Frolik all have had around the same years as they had last year, and in their defense, they are constantly tasked with playing against the other team’s top lines. The bottom 6 that consists of former 4th overall pick Sam Bennett who has not panned out (still just 21), 23-year-old Mark Jankowski still isn’t quite ready to be an impact player on the 3rd line and nobody knows what Curtis Lazar is at this point. Then you fill in the rest of the bottom 6 with the poorly aging Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan who’s been in the league for what seems to be like 45 years at this point, then fill in career minor leaguers such as Garnett Hathaway, Ryan Lomberg, Tanner Glass etc.
While the Flames do not have much depth at forward, they have one of the best defense cores in the league. I’ll admit the Brodie and Hamonic pairing has struggled mightily at times this year but you’re still content with them as a 2nd pairing.
The Flames have relied on Gaudreau and Monahan for a couple years now, while it is exciting for them to get points and set new career highs. What does it matter if the Flames don’t make the playoffs? The Flames are 2 points out of a playoff spot (Colorado has 2 games in hand) and have struggled in the last month. The struggles can be attributed to team MVP Mike Smith being out for the last month. But they can also be attributed to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan not showing up in big games. Dating back to last year’s playoffs, where Johnny Gaudreau had 2 assists, and Sean Monahan had 4 goals (all on the powerplay). At even strength both were invisible and that ended up resulting in a sweep to the battle tested Anaheim Ducks.
Calgary’s last month has been their biggest stretch of the season and they’re 4-5-1 in the last 10 games. 2 of the wins have come against 2 of the worst teams in the league (Buffalo and Ottawa). Johnny Gaudreau has 2 goals in his last 13 games, 1 against the last place Coyotes and 1 against the New York Islanders who’ve allowed the most goals in the league. I mentioned the Flames are within 2 points of Colorado and within 4 of Dallas. The Flames played the Avalanche, the Stars and then the Avalanche from Feb 24th-28th. Gaudreau had 0 points 12 penalty minutes and 7 shots on goal.
Sean Monahan has 3 goals in his last 16. 2 have come on the power play, and 2 have also been against the 2 worst teams in the league (Buffalo and Arizona). Monahan is also a -7 in the last 16 games and was beaten badly to the net by Jordan Eberle on the eventual game winner in Calgary’s last game a 5-2 loss to the Islanders.
Its clear players are frustrated with the lack of 200-foot game from their top players which seems to coincide with a willingness to win. Mike Smith seemed to call out the Flames top line after the game against the Islanders:
“Everyone needs to play out of their comfort zone. Everyone. Our top guys have got to do things that it takes to win – block shots, chip pucks. And our bottom six guys gotta contribute offensively.”
Mike Smith is a veteran who has played in the Conference Finals and has definitely seen it all. Can’t say I disagree with him. If Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan keep up their play in the recent month, the Flames won’t have to worry about getting swept in the playoffs because they won’t make it. Getting points doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not getting results for your team.