Calgary Flames front man Johnny Gaudreau is off to a hot start once again. Only seven games into the 2021–22 season, Gaudreau is near to top of the league in points with 10. He has already celebrated the huge milestone of hitting 500 career points and it is just the beginning.
There is no doubt that Gaudreau has been on and off the past few years. While fans have seen moments of strength, Gaudreau has struggled to perform consistently. Since his 99-point season back in 2018–19, he hasn’t been at a point-per-game level. However, watching him the past few weeks can only be described as seeing the Gaudreau show come back to life.
Gaudreau is certainly making his presence felt on the ice, exhibiting speed and finesse we haven’t seen from the forward in a long time. This should excite Calgary fans who eagerly waiting for a team with real Stanley Cup potential.
His connection with centreman Elias Lindholm has also been a highlight early on. The pair, alongside Matthew Tkachuk, has dominated in each game thus far. This new top line will continue to be a story throughout the season.
How does Gaudreau compare to the rest of the league
Gaudreau’s start is strong within both the Flames and the entire league. The 28-year-old is tied for first in the league in assists with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, however eight of Gaudreau’s assists have been primary, while Nugent-Hopkins only has four. Victor Hedman also has eight primary assists so far too.
Leading the Flames in points is expected from the veteran, but making waves within the league itself is always a bonus. He is currently on pace to compete with other league stars and can find himself back in top-10 in the league if he keeps this up throughout the year.
Gaudreau’s points thus far have come mostly as assists—he scored his first goal against the Penguins, in the Flames’ seventh game of the season. This leads to the question: Should we be worried that Gaudreau has just one goal so far this season? Absolutely not.
When a goal scorer doesn’t score, it’s easy to tie all of his worth to goals scored, but in no way is that the case—especially not for Gaudreau. His contributions as a playmaker are equally valuable to the team. There is no doubt that Johnny will find the back of the net often this year as he has done in the past, but his ability to set up others to score is something special.
Johnny hockey is no stranger to having a strong start. Gaudreau came out hot in the 2018–19 season. This led to the forwards career high in almost every aspect of the game. He finished the season with 99 total points, with 36 of those being goals. Since then he has been somewhat off his game, dropping to just 58 total points the following season.
|2021-22 (7 GP)||1||9||10||1.43|
More recently, Gaudreau jumped into the 2020–21 season with a nine-game point streak. Many labelled it as a bounce-back moment for the forward but he failed to carry his early momentum into the second half of the season. The streak was still a great accomplishment for Gaudreau, contributing to the overall success of the team in the short season despite the unfavourable end-of-season outcome.
The biggest challenge for Gaudreau in the past has been holding on to his early success. Mid-season is where Gaudreau tends to waver, sometimes appearing burnt out or unfocused. Whatever the reason, his performance in the early regular season makes it clear that he is capable of being an effective forward against any opponent.
Carrying his momentum from the first few games will be crucial for Gaudreau this season. The transition back into a regular season with fans, a full schedule and travel could be exactly what the forward needs to achieve this. The Flames’ have one of the league’s best top-six combinations, so Gaudreau is in good company to produce this season.
Gaudreau’s new line
For now, the Flames have finally found a top line that is able to highlight the strengths of Gaudreau. While we saw a sneak peek of the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk line late last season, This is the first we are truly seeing their potential as a top line.
This combination seems bring out the best in all three players, with Elias Lindholm holding second in the league for goals at seven, behind just Alex Ovechkin. The Gaudreau-Lindholm connection in the first six games has been nothing short of magic. Gaudreau has been able to feed Lindholm consistently so far, making the duo very effective in the offensive zone. Here are their 5v5 stats, score-and-venue-adjusted from Natural Stat Trick.
The early success of the top line has been impressive. Stats across the board have improved from the line’s time together last season. Based on this, it is no surprise that these three lead the teams forwards in ice time. Keeping this line together as much as possible should be an obvious goal for Head Coach Daryl Sutter. Until it becomes less effective, there is no reason to separate the trio.
Gaudreau will need to continue to be an offensive force if the Flames hope to make the playoffs this season. Consistency from the left wing would go a long way in overall success, both in moral and momentum. As mentioned before, Sutter should be looking to keep the Gaudreau-Lindholm-Tkachuk line together, which should hopefully provide Gaudreau the platform he needs to succeed.
With Gaudreau’s contract coming to an end in the summer of 2022, he’s putting in the work to see a career-year so far and he’s going to earn every dollar when contract negotiations come back around.