Calgary Flames

Sunday Census: Comeback Kings and Breakout Stars

Welcome back to another week of Sunday Census! Each week we ask you a number of questions on Twitter (@wincolumnblog) about things that are happening with the Flames this week. Want to make sure your opinion is taken into effect? Vote in the polls, start a debate, and propose alternative suggestions on the polls!

Although the Calgary Flames ended up losing to the Los Angeles Kings in overtime, they managed to come back from being down 2-0 after playing probably their worst period of hockey in years. They looked poor throughout the first half of the game until a Milan Lucic fight and some big saves from David Rittich to keep the Flames in it.

However, Matthew Tkachuk was the most popular choice in this one and for good reason. He had two goals and an assist, and was dynamite all night long. He was one of the big reasons the Flames managed to steal a point in this game.

Hockey is a team sport, and many fans struggled to pick just one Flame. Many pointing to all three as the reasons the Flames managed to win. The Lucic fight helped turn the momentum in the game, Rittich making key saves all night long, and Tkachuk scoring a couple of beautiful goals and helping to set up Noah Hanifin.

With all due respect to Rittich, this one does boil down to either Lucic or Tkachuk. It’s been a bit crazy watching James Neal go off in Edmonton to start the season, but let’s not discount Lucic’s effect on this team so far. He was arguably the reason the Flames found their legs in the home opener against the Canucks, and it’s impossible not to look at his fight against the Kings as the event that sparked the comeback. Lucic isn’t going to score seven goals through any four games for the Flames. He might not score seven through the whole season. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t helped the team, despite all his obvious flaws during play.

The feud with Drew Doughty has been awesome to watch over the past three years, and Tkachuk really answered the bell. Doughty got the last laugh but Tkachuk was amazing. It looks like he’s going to have another solid year.

Speaking of Hanifin, most fans felt he was the player most likely to have a breakout year this year. Originally a part of the Dougie Hamilton trade in the summer of 2018, Hanifin struggled initially alongside Travis Hamonic before reaching a career high in points. However, through five games Hanifin has looked excellent. Putting up two goals already and looking strong on the puck, he looks like a potentially elite defenceman in the waiting. While he played 239 games in Carolina, he seems to have found another gear this season in Calgary.

The other popular options were Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane. No surprise with the former. Regularly featuring on the top pairing alongside Mark Giordano, Andersson has also found a spot on the second powerplay and also plays on the penalty kill. With T.J. Brodie on an expiring contract at the end of the season, the Flames are probably looking for a permanent upgrade on the top pairing. Going into the season, Andersson was the hopeful candidate, and through five games he sure looks like the answer.

Mangiapane has also been dynamite this season. Although he started the season in the bottom six playing limited minutes, he has found his way onto the 3M line with Mikael Backlund and Tkachuk and has looked incredibly comfortable against some of the toughest lines in the league. While this may not be a permanent move, knowing how Bill Peters likes to shuffle his lines, Mangiapane has definitely impressed. He may not have a point to his name just yet, he has been one of the best Corsi forwards for the Flames. It is only a matter of time before he hits the scoresheet regularly.

Unfortunately for Sam Bennett, very few respondents have hope for him to break out this season. Going into his fifth year with the Flames, he is fast becoming a known quantity in the league, with little hope of becoming what the team hoped he would when they drafted him fourth overall. While we always hope for the best for our players, it seems unlikely that Bennett will breakout this season. Maybe if he cleans up his discipline and retires his favourite toe drag move for a combination of a few things that are more effective at the NHL level, he’ll find more success.

A few people voted for Lucic as a write-in candidate. Don’t hold your breath.

Want to be a part of the conversation next time around? Follow us on Twitter @wincolumnblog and be sure to keep a look out for our polls throughout the week.

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