How the Calgary Flames’ top line continues to ignite their offensive engine

The Flames boast a potent offensive engine that powers them to success, with the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm taking center stage. Their production is even more impressive when you consider their minutes as they have been on ice for 89% of Calgary’s goals this season.

The “what’s wrong with the canucks” is a question that many hockey fans are asking. The Calgary Flames’ top line has been on fire recently and it seems like something is wrong with the Canucks.

This season, the Calgary Flames had one of the strongest top lines in hockey.

But, as a side note, they were only a backup plan.

Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk would not have begun as the Flames’ top line if not for a slew of preseason injuries. The whole complexion of Calgary’s offensive, if not the Flames’ entire season, might have been different.

What a season the Flames would have been missing out on. Calgary was one of the best teams in the NHL, winning the Pacific Division for just the second time since 2005-06. The Flames were now set for a first-round playoff series with Dallas, which is now locked 1-1 going into Game 3 on Saturday night.

Of course, Calgary’s success was not just due to its first unit. However, certain things are just meant to be. The Lindholm line had only played together briefly at the conclusion of previous season, but it was evident how good they could be even then. But it wasn’t until Darryl Sutter’s choices became more restricted that he reassembled the group, and they went on to dominate the NHL.

Lindholm recently told ESPN, “We understood pretty much immediately away that was a strong line.” “Last season, those two games felt really fantastic. We had fantastic chemistry straight away when we began this year, and we’ve been rolling ever since. To be honest, playing with two world-class skill players is a lot of pleasure for me. I don’t have their talent level, but I try to contribute in other ways and give them the puck as much as possible so they can work their magic.”

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The ability to compliment, enhance, and appreciate each other’s distinct gift as it fits within the group dynamic is what makes these three so exceptional. Steve Jobs once observed that the finest colleagues polish one other like stones. It’s no surprise that Calgary’s big three have shone so brightly.

Their line boasts a strong conductor who leads with authority and exceptional two-way play in Lindholm. Tkachuk is the rhythm, relentless in his chase of the puck and with the finishing ability to match. And Gaudreau has emerged as a virtuoso, a master of generating — and capitalizing on — scoring opportunities.

It just works. Because, despite their differences, these linemates have the same perspective on the game. That, according to Tkachuk, is real chemistry.

He answered, “Definitely, like 1,000 percent.” “We all have similar perspectives on the game, which makes it enjoyable to play with them. We just want the puck at all times. To perform those tiny give-and-gos, we stick close to each other, and anytime the puck is given over, the other men know that another one of us will jump into the action. As soon as we grab the puck, we start thinking about offensive, and whomever has it is creating moves with it. We do the small things to help each other out, and teams appear to struggle with us.”

Calgary is banking on the current trend continuing.


The numerals themselves

This season, how did the Flames’ top unit do against the opposition? Let’s just suppose they were in charge:

  • First in 5-on-5 goals, 5-on-5 projected goals, and 5-on-5 scoring opportunities among all NHL lines.

  • They have the most number of 5-on-5 goals (69) of any regular line combination. They also had the most 5-on-5 scoring opportunities (284).

  • Another regular line, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jason Robertson, had the most 5-on-5 opportunities with 207.

That exemplifies how well the Flames’ top line worked together. Then there were the personal achievements.

This season, just 17 NHL players scored 40 goals. Three of them were Lindholm, Tkachuk, and Gaudreau. There were career-high totals hit across the board in 82 games:

  • Gaudreau finished with 115 points and 40 goals.

  • Lindholm finished with 82 points and 42 goals.

  • Tkachuk, who had never had a season with more than 77 points, surpassed his previous highs with 42 goals and 104 points.

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This time around, the game has also been more entertaining. Calgary finished sixth in the North Division and missed the playoffs completely because to the pandemic that curtailed the NHL’s 2020-21 season.

It was a difficult pill to take, and it’s not something the Flames’ Big Three want to relive — or repeat. The option to start again this season was not taken lightly, as they knew that extra time and experience would only strengthen their squad.

“I want to play with one line and try to keep it constant as much as possible,” Gaudreau said. “Then you know where they are on the ice and you can learn from one another. As each game progresses, you learn more about the two other players and attempt to put everything together to make your line effective, and you grow better and better as a line as you go through the year.”

It is true that familiarity is essential in every successful relationship. However, another well-worn cliché in hockey circles also applies to each talented player’s specific game, which he must accept in order to have a successful season.

Mark Giordano of the Toronto Maple Leafs saw it coming a mile away.


‘Very tough to deal with’

Giordano was the Flames’ center for 14 seasons. He irritated the captain of the squad. He was awarded the Norris Trophy. He saw Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Lindholm all come to Calgary in pursuit of the best version of themselves before getting picked by the Seattle Kraken in last summer’s expansion draft.

They seem to have identified it now, thanks to one key adjustment.

“They’re becoming a lot better at playing defense than they were in their first few years. That is the truthful response “The trio has matured, according to Giordano. “The main difference I notice this year versus any previous year is that they’re very, really excellent on their own end, and it’s transferring into even more offense,” chevalier says.

Giordano may have left Calgary, but he is proud of the team’s rising talents. Giordano handed the mantle to Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Lindholm upon his departure, so they could represent the Flames’ heart and soul in a season like this.

Rather of being a part of its achievement, Giordano has worked against it. Across the ice, he notices a fully developed top line.

“Facing them is quite tough,” Giordano remarked. “I mean, as a defender, you have to be extremely careful every time you shoot the puck or there’s a turnover, because he’s gone. He’s great at predicting things, which is why he gets so many breakaways. Chucky may be seen right around the net in your own zone, on the walls, and making tiny plays. Because he moves the puck out of their D zone so good on the walls, he’s one of the key reasons I believe that line generates so much offense.”

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Lindholm is perplexed as to why Gaudreau does not get the same attention as other top-tier players in the NHL. Anyone who isn’t paying attention to Gaudreau, in his opinion, is losing out.

“It’s quite entertaining to see Johnny every night,” Lindholm remarked. “He’s been fantastic for us throughout the season. He always seems to be the person that comes through for us when we need that extra spark, extra goal, or anything to happen out there. He clearly deserves more notice, but we all know how excellent he is, as does everyone in our locker room. It’s exciting to be a part of it and play with him, as well as to watch him every night and see what he’s up to.”

Gaudreau has been such an important part of the Flames’ comeback that it’s tough to picture him playing elsewhere. Gaudreau is slated to become unrestricted free agent this summer, so that remains a possibility.

It’s a question he’s been getting for months. One notion after another has been proposed as to where he may land next. Those chats never took Gaudreau’s attention away from his on-ice goals. Why would they bother? Gaudreau believes he is in a wonderful position, whether or not a long-term agreement has been inked.

And he’s been accompanied by Tkachuk and Lindholm.

He said, “I want to win here in Calgary.” “And I believe we began playing well right away, and we’ve been in a pretty strong position for the most of the year, so it’s made it a lot simpler just to concentrate on our team and try to win games with these guys while building friendships.” It’s far more difficult to think about the future when you’re losing games and not in the playoffs.

“In Calgary, we have a great bunch of men that get along well and are a lot of fun. It’s some of the finest hockey I’ve ever seen in Calgary, so it’s been a unique experience.”

Whether or whether this historic season concludes with a Stanley Cup, these three will undoubtedly play a key part.

The “friedman canucks” is a term that has been used to describe the Calgary Flames’ top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm. The trio have been able to continue their offensive engine due to the addition of James Neal.

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