The Calgary Flames are heading to the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons. The Flames have also won the Pacific Division for the first time since the 2005-2006 season, and are the winners of the Western Conference.
It has been an awesome year filled with third-period goals and come back wins. Before the season, as I’m certain you all remember, I made some optimistic predictions for this team. If you need a refresher, you can read that here. Let’s take a look at those and see how the team fared.
Prediction #1 – Johnny Gaudreau will lead the NHL in assists
Okay, so I was obviously pretty far off on this one, but Johnny did set a new career high in assists this season with 63. In my defense, I don’t think anyone could have imagined Nikita Kucherov would have the season he had. The final assist leaders looked like this, per NHL.com.
- Nikita Kucherov – 86
- Connor McDavid – 75
- Blake Wheeler – 71
- Mitch Marner – 68
- Brent Burns – 67
- Patrick Kane – 66
- Sidney Crosby – 65
- Brad Marchand – 64
- Johnny Gaudreau – 63
- Claude Giroux – 63
The immediate chemistry that Gaudreau found with Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm really pushed Johnny’s numbers to new heights. Johnny also set a career high in goals with 36. Assist numbers around the league were far higher than last year, as the NHL saw a much more offensive year than last season. While he may not have been the leader in assists, Johnny still had a fantastic season for the Calgary Flames.
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Prediction #2 – The Flames will have six 20+ goal scorers
The Calgary Flames added scoring depth certainly paid off this season. Calgary had four players surpass the 20 goal mark last season, with only one hitting 30 goals (Monahan). This year, the Flames had five players reach 20 goals and three hit 30 goals. This is a HUGE jump from last season and a big factor as to why the Flames were able to win the Western Conference.
The players to hit 20 goals were Johnny Gaudreau (36), Sean Monahan (34), Matthew Tkachuk (34), Elias Lindholm (27), and Mikael Backlund (21). Should be Norris winner Mark Giordano finished with 17 goals. The Flames as a team had eleven players with at least ten goals. That is nearly four full lines hitting double-digit goals, really showing the depth of this team. Michael Frolik finished with 16 goals in just 65 games, so I am giving myself this one and saying he would have reached 20 goals had he played every game.
Prediction #3 – The Flames finish with 95+ points
I have to admit that when I said this at the beginning of the year it was more of a hope than an actual prediction. Fast forward to today and the Calgary Flames have shattered that point total en route to winning the Western Conference. The Calgary Flames finished the year 50-25-7, giving them 107 points on the season and securing the “vice-presidents trophy” for second most points in the league. The point total is a testament to the terrific job that both Brad Treliving and Bill Peters have done this season. While I do not see Bill Peters winning the Jack Adams Award, I think he has a strong case to be a finalist.
Prediction #4 – Sean Monahan hits the 40 goal mark
Was this a reach? Yes. But was it? Probably. Still, Sean Monahan netted a career-high 34 goals at an efficient 16.1%. That is actually an even better shooting percentage than Monahan had last year, showing his continued growth as a player. I think Mony played a much smarter game this year, choosing his shots better and moving the puck more efficiently than ever before. He enjoyed career highs in goals, assists, power play goals, and a career low in penalty minutes. Sean Monahan was over a point per game for the first time in his career as well. Expect more seasons like this from Mony in the future. I still fully expect him to hit the 40 goal mark at some point in his career.
Prediction #5 – The Flames make the Western Conference Final
Well…so far, so good. The Calgary Flames are back in the playoffs as the top seed, meaning they have secured home ice throughout the playoffs. This will be essential for the Flames, especially the further they go. As the top seed in the West, the Flames should theoretically be the favorites to make the Stanley Cup Final, although they are not being viewed that way by most of the hockey world. I like the Flames first-round matchup against the Avalanche. The Flames went undefeated against them this season, handling the Avs top line very well. If the Flames advance to the second round, they will face a Pacific Division rival in the form of the Sharks or the Golden Knights. This will no doubt be a fun and competitive series.
Any way you swing it, we have playoff hockey again in the Saddledome and it is a beautiful thing. The Calgary Flames had the second-best season in franchise history and saw many faces set new career highs. Both the present and the future in Calgary is burning bright.