Sean Monahan deservedly got much of the attention after his first goal of the season and a two-point night for the Calgary Flames.
But there were plenty of other notable performances, from Matthew Tkachuk looking like the buzzsaw he was pre-pandemic, to Johnny Gaudreau doing Johnny Hockey stuff, to Oliver Kylington just owning that spot next to Chris Tanev.
But before we move on from Monahan completely, Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter’s post-game comments about the way the 27-year-old has accepted his ice time and playing partners without so much as a complaint really speaks to the kind of teammate he is.
“He’s been awesome. He’s got a great attitude and works hard,” said Sutter. “I’ve said it many times in the dressing room – it’s not a top-heavy lineup for us. You’ve got to spread it out and everyone’s got to accept their role and go from there.
“It’s good to see him get some opportunities, more than anything. He hasn’t had many.”
For his part, Monahan said his start hasn’t been frustrating.
“No, it hasn’t at all. It’s never frustrating when you’re winning games,” Monahan said. “I think we have a good team and we just won six games in a row. We’re still not satisfied with what we’re doing but we’re on the right page right now.
“It’s a team game and when you’re part of a team, you’ve got to accept roles and do the best job you can at it. I have no complaints.”
Hey, look, got through a whole section on Monahan without mentioning the Jack Eichel NHL trade rumours.
To the takeaways …
Intense Tkachuk capitalizes on one of many chances for Flames
I could see the intensity in Tkachuk early in the game. He was determined to drive to the net. You could just tell how badly he wanted to make an impact.
In fact, I predicted he would score next after Monahan broke his goose egg on the season.
The Monahan goal seemed inevitable tonight. I think Tkachuk is next. Been around the net a lot. #Flames
— Steve Macfarlane (@MacfarlaneHKY) October 31, 2021
He did score next, opening the third-period floodgates by finishing a beauty of a passing play from Elias Lindholm and Monahan.
Tkachuk finished with a team high seven shots on goal. But more than that, he had his edge in a very focused and controlled way. He was ticked off whenever a play didn’t seem to go right but channeled it into the next play or shift. (Although, he did snap a stick during one failed finish in the offensive zone).
He also mucked it up with the Flyers after Ivan Provorov caught him with an awkward hit by the benches. It just felt like Tkachuk was finding himself again and not getting caught up in his own expectations.
Oliver Kylington not about to let job slip out of (silky) hands
Oliver Kylington took a while to get to 100 NHL games but may not come out of the lineup for another 100 at this rate.
The Calgary Flames blueliner is oozing confidence right now and he played a strong game alongside Chris Tanev after the two were separated in the last contest.
Kylington only had about 30 seconds on the powerplay – with Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson dominating the man-advantage minutes – but he did finish with more than 17 minutes at even strength. That was actually a ton more than Andersson and Hanifin, who played a lot of special teams time for both units.
The ice time shows Sutter’s growing confidence in him. I know he’s given Kylington a hard time in the media and has likely said even more constructive criticism with his player behind closed doors. But that tough love typically indicates the belief Sutter has in a player’s potential.
Kylington earned a hard second assist for outworking a pair of Flyers to pop the puck out to Tanev, who sent a long pass to Gaudreau for the final goal of the night. Gaudreau did the rest of the work with an insanely accurate and sneaky good shot to beat Carter Hart.
Slick Gaudreau somehow an under-the-radar MVP
Speaking of Gaudreau, he’s just in a world of his own this year on the ice. He’s trying bold moves but still keeping himself on the right side of the puck more often than not and he could really be in for a huge season.
His nine assists are good for second in the league – tied with a guy named Connor McDavid and one shy of his Oilers teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And he’s not far from the NHL’s leaders in total points with 11, either.
If not for the play of goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Gaudreau would be a runaway favourite for MVP so far.
Markstrom (nearly) unbeatable for Flames
Markstrom is back on track to be the star backstop the Calgary Flames hoped he’d be when they lured him away from Vancouver with a $6-million deal before last season. He has three shutouts in his last four starts, and just one goal allowed in his last 127 shots against.
He’s had to face a flurry of shots in some. It’s arguably even more challenging to stay mentally focused and track pucks when you’re facing fewer and watching the play in the opponent’s end.
“Today was more mental, to stay focused and don’t get derailed,” Markstrom said. “To watch our guys play a great game in front of me, I don’t mind it at all.
“Everybody that was here last year remembers the sour taste of that season. It was no fun at all – especially not winning hockey games. I think everybody is hungry and wants to play good.”
He didn’t have to be spectacular on Saturday, but he did make a couple of timely stops that preserved their fragile one-goal cushion.
“You’ve got to make the big saves,” Sutter said of his netminder. “Shutouts, they don’t happen very often. Hopefully there’s many more for him in his career.”