For the Calgary Flames, it was more of the same in Monday night’s 4-2 win over Arizona.
More Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan (assist apiece) getting on the scoresheet. More Matthew Tkachuk (two assists) providing the Flames with spark out of the vast fountain of youth that has bestowed the hockey world. More shutdown defense (26:33 for T.J. Brodie, 25:16 for Mark Giordano, 21 shots allowed in 43:50 of five-on-five play).
But above all else, it was a another day at the office for the Flames special teams units, the powerplay tacking on three man-advantage goals while the penalty kill stymied all five chances the Coyotes had.
The Flames have now scored a powerplay goal in eight straight games, the longest streak since December 2005. A powerplay goal on Tuesday night in San Jose will give Calgary its first nine-game streak since March and April 2002. Calgary is clicking at a 39.4 percent rate (13-for-33) on the powerplay over the last eight games. They had just eight in 79 attempts prior, with a league-worst 10.1 success rate.
The biggest key for the Flames has been the return of Gaudreau, who splits duties with Sam Bennett on the left point. Gaudreau returned from a fractured finger on December 4. Six of his 11 points in seven games following his return have come on the powerplay.
Along with Gaudreau and Bennett, Brodie and Giordano have been the guys working the right point and the blue line. Much of the offense is generated from the left point, where the puck is directed down low, where combinations consisting largely of Monahan, Dougie Hamilton, Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, and Alex Chaisson swarm the net-front.
Meanwhile, the penalty kill has allowed just four goals this month, an 86.2 percent success rate that is tied for 11th in the league. The Flames haven’t given up a powerplay goal on the road since November 27. Calgary has killed off 27 of 28 penalties since allowing Buffalo to score three man-advantage goals on November 21.
Calgary has been one of the hottest teams in the NHL over the past month, with a 9-3-1 record in 13 games going back to November 23. Its only losses in December have come to Stanley Cup hopeful Tampa Bay and white-hot Columbus.
The Flames have climbed into the first Wildcard spot in the Western Conference as a result. Calgary’s 36 points is two ahead of eighth-place Los Angeles and three more than first-team-out Winnipeg. This comes after the Flames were on the outside looking in a month ago. Its staggering rate of success on special teams have been a big part of that turnaround.