National Hockey League

Pacific Division Preview: Calgary Flames

After finishing first in the Western Conference in the 2018-19 regular season – and posting their highest win and point totals in 30 years – the Calgary Flames look to successfully defend their conference title, a feat they have achieved twice before (1988-89 and 1989-90, Clarence Campbell Conference).

Since the Flames in 1989-90, only one Canadian team has claimed the No. 1 seed in its conference in consecutive seasons: the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 and 2011-12. In that same time frame, only two Canadian clubs have claimed the No. 1 seed in their division in consecutive seasons: Calgary (2 from 1993-94—1994-95) and Vancouver (2 from 1991-92—1992-93 and 5 from 2008-09—2012-13).

Celebrating 40 years in Calgary, the Flames will aim to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in consecutive campaigns for the first time since a five-season run from 2003-04 to 2008-09.

Led by career-best performances by each of their top five point-getters, the Flames jumped from among the lowest-scoring teams in 2017-18 (t-26th; 218) to among the highest in 2018-19 (t-2nd; 289) with their highest goal total in 25 years. The Flames finished among the top two in NHL goals on seven other occasions – all in consecutive seasons from 1984-85 to 1990-91.

* Calgary last won its season-opener in 2009-10 when Miikka Kiprusoff made 39 saves in a 5-3 victory at home against the Roberto Luongo-led Canucks.

* The Flames are 0-8-1 in their past nine season-openers (from 2010-11 to 2018-19), the longest active such winless streak and third-longest in NHL history behind the Red Wings (12 GP; 0-8-4 from 1982-83 to 1993-94) and Blues (10 GP; 0-6-4 from 1997-98 to 2007-08).

* Sean Monahan began the 2018-19 with a goal in each of his first three games (4-1—5), tying Willi Plett (1977-78) and Kent Nilsson (1979-80) for the second-longest season-opening goal streak in franchise history behind Gary Roberts (5 GP in 1989-90). Plett and Nilsson each achieved the feat while the club was based in Atlanta.

* Twenty-six-year-old Johnny Gaudreau needs a one-point improvement over his 2018-19 totals (36-63—99 in 82 GP) to become the ninth different player in franchise history to hit 100 points in a season. Gaudreau, who has recorded at least 60 assists in each of the last two campaigns, can become the first player in franchise history to record 60+ assists three times.

* Gaudreau ranks among the top 10 in the NHL for assists (123; 6th) and points (183; 9th) over the past two regular seasons. He also ranks 10th in the NHL in assists since 2014-15, his first full season.

* Sean Monahan is one of five players with an active streak of at least six consecutive 20-goal seasons to begin his NHL career (also Alex Ovechkin: 14, Jonathan Toews: 12, Patrick Kane: 12 and John Tavares: 10).

* Monahan can become the fifth player to hit the 20-goal mark at least seven times with the franchise (Jarome Iginla: 14, Theo Fleury: 10, Joe Nieuwendyk: 8 and Gary Roberts: 7).

* Captain Mark Giordano, Calgary’s only defenseman born before the 1990s, is coming off a season in which he shattered career highs for assists and points (17-57—74 in 78 GP) and became the fourth player to the win Norris Trophy at age 35 or older. Giordano also led the NHL with a +39 rating; only two players have topped the League in plus-minus in consecutive seasons since the statistic was officially tracked in 1959-60: Bobby Orr (4 from 1968-69—1971-72, 2 from 1973-74—1974-75) and Wayne Gretzky (4 from 1981-82—1984-85).

* After establishing career highs with 27-51—78 in 2018-19 (81 GP), Elias Lindholm can become the third player to record 50+ assists in each of his first two seasons with the Flames franchise; Doug Gilmour (1988-89—1990-91) and Kent Nilsson (1979-80—1980-81) are the only ones to do so.

* Twenty-one-year-old Matthew Tkachuk has increased his goal and point output in each of his first three NHL seasons, posting career highs across the board in 2018-19 (34-43—77 in 80 GP) to boost his career totals to 71-103—174 (224 GP). Tkachuk already has the fourth-most goals by a Flames player before age 22, trailing only Sean Monahan (80 in 237 GP), Robert Reichel (79 in 223 GP) and Dan Quinn (72 in 222 GP). With the Flames playing 33 games before Tkachuk’s 22nd birthday on Dec. 11, he is on track to become the youngest player in franchise history to accumulate 200 NHL points.

* Dillon Dube, another 21-year-old who was selected by the Flames 50 picks after Tkachuk in the 2016 NHL Draft, will vie for a full-time roster spot after tallying 1-4—5 in 25 NHL games and averaging more than a point per game in the AHL last season (15-24—39 in 37 GP). A Flames rookie has eclipsed 40 points in a season 16 times since the club relocated to Calgary in 1979-80, including twice in the past five seasons (Johnny Gaudreau in 2014-15, Matthew Tkachuk in 2016-17).

* After playing more than half the team’s games in 2018-19, David Rittich will look to build on his breakout NHL season. Rittich allowed more than three goals only seven times in 42 starts last season, tied with Robin Lehner for the second-fewest such outings in the League behind Ben Bishop (6; min. 40 starts).

* Cam Talbot is set to become the fifth goaltender to play at least one regular-season game with both the Flames and Oilers; Fred Brathwaite, Dwayne Roloson, Grant Fuhr and Curtis Joseph are the only netminders to skate for both clubs.

* Forward Milan Lucic and goaltender Cam Talbot – who both played for Edmonton last season – highlight the list of newcomers to the Flames roster ahead of 2019-20. Including the four goaltenders noted above, 42 players have skated an NHL regular-season or playoff game for both Calgary and Edmonton (excludes two who skated for both Atlanta Flames and Edmonton).

A look at how players have fared historically in their debut game/season with the franchise:

First game with the Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames. . .
Most goals: 2 – Olli Jokinen (March 5, 2009)
Most assists: 3 – 3 players; most recent: Kristian Huselius (Dec. 3, 2005)
Most points: 3 – 6 players; most recent: Kristian Huselius (Dec. 3, 2005)

Most goals: 1 – 5 players; most recent: Patrick Sieloff (April 9, 2016)
Most assists: 3 – Phil Housley (Jan. 20, 1995)
Most points: 3 – Phil Housley (Jan. 20, 1995)

Most saves: 42 – 2 goaltenders; most recent: Mike Smith (Oct. 4, 2017)
Shutout: 2 goaltenders; most recent: Roman Turek (Oct. 3, 2001)

First season with the Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames. . .
Most goals: 40 – Kent Nilsson (1979-80)
Most assists: 62 – Sergei Makarov (1989-90)
Most points: 93 – Kent Nilsson (1979-80)

Most goals: 20 – Dion Phaneuf (2005-06)
Most assists: 50 – Gary Suter (1985-86)
Most points: 68 – Gary Suter (1985-86)

Most wins: 30 – Roman Turek (2001-02)
Most Shutouts: 5 – Roman Turek (2001-02)

— NHL Public Relations

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