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12 biggest surprises explaining the Flames’ excellent start

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Few things around the league are more surprising than the early success of the Calgary Flames.

After missing the playoffs last season, and being unable to replace captain Mark Giordano in a relatively quiet off-season, few believed it could be possible for them to sit atop the Western Conference 19 games in.

It’s been a season of surprises in Calgary, which is why we’ve ranked the 12 biggest to explain how they got here:

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1. OLIVER KYLINGTON

The loss of Giordano in the summer left a gaping hole at the back end of a team that was one player short of filling its top four.

Enter Kylington, who had previously been the forgotten man in an organization that exposed him on waivers a year earlier.

A strong camp opened eyes, but not as much as his performance as the team’s leading scorer amongst defenceman with three goals and 12 points to sit 16th amongst NHL blue-liners.

His plus-10 rating is also amongst leaders, proving he’s limited the mistakes that used to define him.

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With points in 11 of his last 14 games, the speedy, creative playmaker is proving to be as dependable and consistent as any of the team’s top four defenders.

2. ANDREW MANGIAPANE

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Few in Calgary are shocked he’s had a good start, but even his biggest supporters couldn’t have fathomed he’d be second in NHL goal scoring behind Leon Draisaitl with 15 goals in 19 outings.

A league-leading 14 of those have come on the road.

Well before his breakout as world championship MVP, he’d been trending as one of the game’s most efficient 5-on-5 scorers, but the run he’s on now has people starting to understand why Team Canada put him on its Olympic long list months ago.

A dependable penalty killer whose tenacity makes him a good fit as a role player for Canada’s Olympic squad, his success has come despite playing just 15 minutes a night as a second-liner who has yet to crack the team’s top power-play unit.

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3. THEY’RE ROAD WARRIORS

The club’s shocking 11-3-5 start has come largely on the road.

The Flames have opened the year with taxing, five and seven-game roadies out east. They have league-best 9-2-2 record away from the Saddledome.

The early money was on Calgary to be amongst the teams battling for third in the NHL’s weakest division, behind Vegas and the Oilers.

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Instead, they’re a point up on their northern rivals, albeit having played two more games.

If the Flames can duplicate their road success at the Saddledome, the race for first place could be a long one.

4. DAN VLADAR

In a league in which backup goalies need to win at least half their starts for a team to make the playoffs, the unproven 24-year-old was a significant gamble.

The Flames gave Boston a third-round pick for Vladar, who had only five NHL starts under his belt.

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In five starts as a Flame, he is 4-0-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .946 save percentage, which includes shutouts against the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins his last two outings.

5. JACOB MARKSTROM

Given how much the Flames paid him two summers ago on the open market, it shouldn’t be too big a surprise he’s found the form to make him a dominant force.

However, his five shutouts in 14 starts has him on pace to shatter Miikka Kiprusoff’s franchise record of 10 goose eggs.

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His 1.71 GAA and .942 save percentage have helped him to a 7-3-4 record that has backstopped the Flames to tops in the Western Conference.

6. THEY’RE EXCITING TO WATCH

Based on previous squads coached by Darryl Sutter, if anyone thought this team could have early success, conventional wisdom suggested it would be by way of boring, defensive, 2-1 games.

Instead, this team is actually entertaining to watch, even on low-scoring nights when Markstrom or Vladar are putting on goalie clinics.

Johnny Gaudreau is back to being one of the most electric players in the league, spearheading one of the most creative and prolific lines in the loop with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk.

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The Flames sit eighth in goals scored per game (3.32), and are tops in goals against per night, at 1.89 — a combination any fan can get excited about.

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7. SEAN MONAHAN

Most people would have assumed Sean Monahan would be a big part of any Flames bounce-back.

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Not so.

Perhaps still dealing with the effects of off-season hip surgery, Monahan has largely been playing on the third and fourth lines, where he’s a team-low minus-5.

Five of his nine points have come on the first power-play unit, where the 206-goal man has managed to remain a part of their success.

Full credit to the veteran, who has accepted his new role and is working hard to play himself back into the top six.

8. ERIK GUDBRANSON

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Expectations were low, even for a sixth defenceman, but the veteran has been a huge part of the team’s fifth-ranked penalty killing unit.

Brought in for his toughness and experience, he’s been the third-pairing mainstay alongside Nikita Zadorov and Juuso Valimaki, who have taken turns trying to grow their games.

9. THERE’S MORE ON THE FARM

Experts on prospects have long suggested the Flames don’t have much in the pipeline compared to other teams.

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However, the Stockton Heat are atop the AHL’s Pacific Division with a 10-0-2 record.

There are a litany of young stars spearheading the team-record 12-game point streak, including Glenn Gawdin, Adam Ruzicka, Matthew Phillips, goalie Dustin Wolf and first-rounder Jakob Pelletier, whose first year as a pro has started brilliantly.

It gives hope that when the Flames do need to summon help from the minors, there are plenty of viable options.

10. THEY KEEP SCORING FIRST

Over the last few years the knock on the Flames has been their inconsistency, as in, no one knew when they’d show up for a game.

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Not so this year.

The Flames have scored first in 15 of 19 outings this year, going 11-1-3 in those games.

They’ve scored first in all 12 road games.

An incredible turnaround for a team clearly more prepared for puck drop than previous years.

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11. JUUSO VALIMAKI

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Given the tough love Sutter gave the young defenceman upon arriving last year, we figured the ride would be rough for the first-round pick.

However, few would have predicted he’d play only eight games in their first 19, making it hard for the youngster to build momentum and confidence.

The unforeseen emergence of Kylington has impacted Valimaki more than anyone.

12. JOHNNY GAUDREAU

Few should be surprised he has found the bounce in his step and perfect linemates to sit fourth in NHL scoring as the reigning NHL Player of the Week.

What no one saw coming was this stat: he has yet to be on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal scored against him or his line.

He’s bought into the program and made himself a more conscientious backchecker, putting himself amongst league leaders at plus-14.





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MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category

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American sports fans can’t help it: they love to compare everything they see, use, watch, or enjoy.

It’s a natural thing to do, and it happens in every country.

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In the specific case of the United States, fans often discuss which sports and leagues are the most popular.

Several metrics and factors are used to determine the winner: average attendance to games, overall revenue, TV ratings, social media followers or interactions, and more.

The people at FiveThirtyEight wrote an interesting article and show us a key graph using average attendance to games.

The NFL is heavily favored in that exercise.

“Put simply, NFL games are massively bigger spectacles than contests in any other American sport, with thousands more people showing up to NFL stadiums during football season than we see at MLB, NBA or NHL games,” they tweeted.

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There are several things to consider.

Attendance to MLB games is, on average, just under 27,000 while the NFL is just shy of 70,000.

NBA and NHL are next with almost 18,000 and close to 17,000, respectively.

We have to account for the fact that there are 17 games per team in an NFL season, and the number is 162 in MLB.

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Additionally, NBA and NHL would have a problem with bigger venues from a visibility standpoint.

NFL is a huge league, but these are important factors to consider.

There is no question, however, that NFL is ahead of MLB when it comes to viewership.

MLB has to make sure to showcase its product in the most possible avenues to start making up some ground.

The post MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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NBA Insider Reveals Latest On Kyrie Irving Trade

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After Kyrie Irving demanded a trade on Friday, the Brooklyn Nets acted quickly, agreeing to send him to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

On Monday, NBA insider Shams Charania reported that the trade was now official, and he gave the details on what Dallas gave up to receive the perennial All-Star point guard.

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On the surface, it looks like the Mavs didn’t give up a whole lot to get a man who is averaging 27.1 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from 3-point range this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who was a member of the Nets a few years ago, will give them a solid point guard and 3-point shooter, while Dorian Finney-Smith will provide them with a decent defender, but neither player gives opposing teams headaches.

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However, the Mavs are taking a significant risk here because of Irving’s off-the-court issues.

He was suspended for eight games earlier this season after promoting a documentary with antisemitic content and then failing to explain why he did so to reporters.

Last season, he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which led to him missing most of the season, as New York City banned unvaccinated athletes from playing.

Some also wonder if Irving and Luka Doncic can mesh together in the same backcourt, as both are ball-dominant players.

Then there is the matter of getting Irving to sign a contract extension to keep him in Dallas past this season.

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If it all works, the Mavs will have the foundation to become a championship contender, but if it doesn’t, they would have given up several of their limited trade assets for essentially nothing.

The post NBA Insider Reveals Latest On Kyrie Irving Trade appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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Dodgers Manager Withholds A Bold Claim In 2023

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The spring is usually the time for hope and lofty goals in the MLB universe.

It’s also the time for the “I’m in the best shape of my life” quotes by players, and the “we built a squad to compete” by general managers.

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With that in mind, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts may have gone a bit too far last year.

In late March, around the end of spring training, he said that he “guaranteed” the Dodgers winning the World Series.

In reality, every sign pointed at LA being extremely competitive until the end.

Time proved that his squad was historically good, with 111 wins and just 51 losses.

However, they lost in the first round of the playoffs, against the San Diego Padres no less.

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Dodgers (and other teams’) fans blasted him for his spring training remarks.

They couldn’t believe he promised a World Series win and couldn’t even get past the Division Series.

That’s why this time, Roberts decided to be a bit more cautious with what comes out of his mouth.

“Dave Roberts, speaking to the media at Dodgers Fanfest, said he will not guarantee the Dodgers winning the World Series this season,” Jorge Castillo of the LA Times tweeted.

Talk about learning from your own mistakes.

He received so much backlash that he is trying a more conservative approach.

He knows that his Dodgers are still elite, but he prefers the team to show it on the field this time.

They might not have such a dominant regular season because the Padres improved a lot.

However, all fans want is to see them win the last game of the season.

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The post Dodgers Manager Withholds A Bold Claim In 2023 appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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