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Tight defensive play of Gaudreau, Tkachuk key to Flames’ success

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Of all the gaudy stats Johnny Gaudreau has posted over the course of his NHL career, perhaps none are more shocking and impressive than this one.

Ditto for Matthew Tkachuk.

In the midst of Tuesday’s win over the Blackhawks, a rare Tkachuk turnover in his own end wound up in the back of Calgary’s net.

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The goal ended a string no other NHLer could boast, as it was the first time this season Tkachuk was on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against.

Ditto for his linemate, Gaudreau.

They were the last two players in the NHL with over 100 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 to not allow a goal.

Of forwards with over 250 minutes at 5-on-5, only one player comes close to such defensive perfection – linemate Elias Lindholm, who has been on the ice for only two 5-on-5 goals in a quarter of a season.

Next on that list is Filip Zadina of the Red Wings with six, while Pierre Luc-Dubois and Kyle Connor of the Jets are at nine.

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“They’ve done a good job in our defensive zone,” said Gaudreau of his linemates, who’ve provided a steadying influence while he’s taken massive strides in his approach to playing in his own zone.

“Obviously, Lindy is pretty good back there. He’s good down low and getting pucks out, and getting them to us wingers on the wall. I think we’re just playing well. A lot of fun right now.”

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Keep in mind, they aren’t a checking line.

They are a scoring line, which also happens to be something they’ve been proficient at this year too, slinging the puck around on many nights with the creativity of hockey’s version of the Globetrotters.

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No line in the NHL has played more minutes as a trio than Calgary’s top unit, playing five minutes more than Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.

Only a few lines have scored more than the Flames trio, which has seen Gaudreau and Tkachuk score nine times, followed by Lindholm at eight.

But none have been stingier defensively.

To that point, Lindholm leads the league at plus-19.

The next closest forward in the loop is Johnny Gaudreau at plus-15.

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Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Tkachuk is at plus-12.

Dominance.

Few league observers would have believed in training camp that Calgary would have one of the league’s best lines.

But even coach Darryl Sutter, who continues to remind media-types his team is bereft of elite scoring, admitted recently it’s one of the league’s top trios.

Sutter says their proficiency has helped set up the team’s secondary scorers, like Andrew Mangiapane, who is amongst league leaders with 15 goals.

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“Who draws the most attention? Matthew and Lindy and Johnny,” said Sutter, answering his own question.

“So you’re expecting those guys behind them to beat who they are playing against, either in the checking department, the puck battle department, the possession department or the scoring department.”

They certainly have, leading the team to a 12-3-5 record that has Calgary sitting atop the Western Conference.

The Flames lead the league with a plus-30 goal differential, thanks to a relentless forecheck that has the team tilting possession stats, creating plenty of scoring chances and keeping the puck out of their own end.

Having the league’s best goaltending tandem helps too, as the Flames are the only team in the league averaging under two goals against per game.

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Gaudreau is back to being the energized, engaged playmaking wizard he was three years earlier when he finished with 99 points and fourth in Hart Trophy voting.

His 23 points have him sitting sixth in the NHL, alongside linemates who are both in the top 25.

“They’re two really smart, skilled players,” said Gaudreau.

“I’ve said it before, you like playing with players and trying to create chemistry. With two players like that, they see the ice so well, and they make plays in the offensive zone.

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“At times at the blue line the play might not be there and the play is to dump it in.

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“But they can make a skilled play to make it turn into a 2-on-1 or an odd-man rush.”

Lindholm and Tkachuk have long been 200-foot players with offensive upside, while Gaudreau continues to add defensive responsibility to his repertoire.

His backchecking even included a big hit on Erik Haula Sunday in Boston.

“I was just happy I knocked him down,” said the diminutive Gaudreau, who smiled when asked if it was a “back to the gym” moment (in honour of a blast by Mark Giordano last year he punctuated by yelling at the victim, “back to the gym.”)

“No, I don’t deserve to say that. I belong in the gym, at all times.”

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Eagles' Miles Sanders on advice to his younger self: 'Be patient'

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Philadelphia Eagles’ Miles Sanders gave advice to his younger self to be patient and follow the course.



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Kyle Busch detained last month in Mexico for gun possession

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Kyle Busch said he forgot he had a gun in his bag while traveling in Mexico last month and was detained by Mexican authorities.



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Nets Coach Shares His Message To Team After Kyrie Irving Trade

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(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

 

After three years and change, the Kyrie Irving experiment is over for the Brooklyn Nets, and many of their fans are breathing a sigh of relief.

They thought the organization had assembled a superteam back in 2019 when they acquired both Irving and Kevin Durant, but they have nothing to show for it, as the team didn’t reach the Eastern Conference Finals with the duo.

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Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn had a succinct message for his team after Irving was traded to the Dallas Mavericks following a trade request on Friday.

When Irving and Durant joined the Nets, many proclaimed them the NBA’s next great team, but the experiment failed for multiple seasons, and Irving is a major reason why.

He is an ultra-skilled player, but he has been a headache off the court.

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Earlier this season, he promoted a documentary with antisemitic content, and he failed to explain why he did so to reporters, which resulted in an eight-game suspension for him.

Last season, his failure to get vaccinated against COVID-19 caused the Nets to send him home for much of the year, and in the meantime, he promoted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Now, the question is whether Durant will ask to be traded soon, as Brooklyn likely won’t even come close to contending for an NBA championship anytime soon.

Reportedly, there are teams that are monitoring Durant’s situation and readying themselves in case he asks out.

At least now the Nets can move forward without the stress of keeping Irving engaged and wondering what he may do next to jeopardize team chemistry and performance.

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The post Nets Coach Shares His Message To Team After Kyrie Irving Trade appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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