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Dawson Thompson

Articles mainly on the NHL, and the Calgary Flames.

Three reasons why the Flames can make the playoffs.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Recent special teams success.

Over the first two months of the season the Flames had an awful power play and sat in last place in the league hovering around the 10% area. Since the beginning the of December the Flames have been absolutely red hot on the power play, scoring a power play goal in 8 straight games and 3 in one game against Arizona. Since the start of December they have been working at about 40% bringing the season total to 18.8% which has vamped them up to 15th in the league, and 3rd in the division. At the beginning of the season the penalty kill was working really well, and Frolik and Backlund were looking like two of the best penalty killers in the league, and scoring on the penalty kill as well. They have slowed down over the last two months a little and sit at 79.4% and 22nd in the league but the penalty kill is not hurting them.

Team unity on offence.

It was always going to take time to adjust from the coaching of Bob Hartley to Glen Gulutzan and it looks like it has taken the Flames just about 30 games to do so going 7-3 in their last 10 games. A lot of this has to do with them figuring it out on the power play scoring in 8 straight games with the man advantage. Individual play recently has really helped the Flames along especially in the scoring department, scoring the 3rd most goals in the division. Sean Monahan is currently on a 10 game scoring streak, and Johnny Gaudreau is on an 8 game streak, getting a point in each game since coming back from injury. New additions Troy Brouwer, Alex Chaisson, Kris Versteeg, and rookie Matthew Tkachuk are really starting to find their groove with the Flames as well and are helping produce to keep the Flames in play off contention.

Solid goaltending.

Although Brian Elliott has had a very rough start to his career as a Flame he still has lots of time to turn it around and play well for his new team. In the time that Elliott has struggled they have got extremely solid goaltending from Chad Johnson. Right now it is hard to tell who is the true starter on this team but over the past month and a half Johnson has shown that he should be the one for Calgary. Right now Johnson is 13-6-1 with a .924 SV% and 2.22 GAA which is defiantly good enough for an offence that is 3rd in the division. Elliott at the moment is 4-9-1 with a .889 SV% and 3.21 GAA. If Johnson can keep up his very consistent, great play, and if Elliott can start playing a little bit better when he gets the opportunity and win some games like he did recently in Arizona then Calgary should have no problems scoring more than their opposition and make the playoffs.

Calder Trophy frontrunners.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Murray. Goalie, Pittsburgh Penguins.

The rookie goalie who has been splitting time with Marc Andre-Fleury, and has spent a lot of time recently in the net, and very deservedly as well. Murray has much better stats this season than Fleury and should start to be their full time starter. Murray this year leads rookie goalies in all Goaltender stats although there is not much competition, but the what he is doing for the penguins still makes him one of the top frontrunners for the trophy, and the first goalie to win it since Steve Mason in 2009. Murray is 12-2 this year with a 1.93 GAA and .935 SV%, and 2 shutouts. That is ridiculous for a 22 year old. With his poise he is likely to keep this up and will be a contender for the Calder.

Patrik Laine. Right Wing, Winnipeg Jets.

"The next Ovechkin" The 6'5 winger has lit it up in the NHL to start his career. He is second on the team in points just behind Mark Schiefele who has 28 in 29 games. Laine has 25 points in 32 games, and has 17 goals in that time. Laine leads all rookies in goals, and points thanks to all the goals that he has. He has 7 power play goals already and 9 points on the power play. He also has 3 game winning goals which is tied for the rookie lead. Laine impressively is third overall in the entire league for goals and with his extreme determination will look to finish in the top five for sure. Right now Laine sits tied for 24th in the league in scoring. He is also a +2 on the season. Laine will look to make it back to back Europeans to win the Calder Trophy after Artemi Panerin won it last year.

Zach Werenski. Defence, Columbus Blue Jackets.

Werenski is seen as the underdog in the race for the Calder but he is also the dark horse in the competition. Werenski will try and be the first defence man to win since Aaron Ekblad in 2015 only two years ago, as rookie defence man are becoming much more important on young developing teams like the Blue Jackets now, and Panthers two years ago. Werenski has been making a name for himself as the top defence man on one of the hottest teams in the NHL and has been a catalyst on their power play which is number one in the league Werenski is tied for second in rookies in plus minus with a +6, and is tied for second in power play points with 9. Werenski has 6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 27 games. Werenski will look to continue these impressive stats as he is also second in the league in shifts per game with 27.7 so he will get lots of opportunities this season.

Auston Matthews. Centre, Toronto Maple Leafs.

The number one overall draft pick last summer has to be on this list as well. The leader in points on the Maple Leafs, and the kid who already looks like the leader on the team. Just like how Mcdavid took over the Captain role in Edmonton, it is likely the Matthews will do the same in Toronto because he is showing that he is a true leader already. With 13 points and 22 points in 28 games Matthews leads the Leafs, and is 2nd in rookie scoring sitting only behind Laine. Matthews is currently a -1 but with 22 shifts a game, and 17 minutes of ice time a game on a .500 team that is not to bad, and not something to be worried about. Matthews has 7 power play points which is second on the team only behind William Nylander so those two rookies are leading the Leafs power play. Matthews will look to become the first 1st overall pick since Ekblad two years ago to win the Calder Trophy.

Five of the most surprising players to begin the season.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chad Johnson. Goalie, Calgary Flames.

Chad Johnson is easily one of the five biggest surprises this year as he has stolen the starting goalie spot from one of the most consistent starters in the NHL the last couple of years, Brian Elliott. Chad Johnson has saved the Flames season over the past month, as they were flirting with last place in a very weak pacific division about a month ago, and now they are fighting for the lead. Johnson is top 10 in the league in wins with 13, save percentage with .932, and GAA with 1.98. He's been amazing for them and that is why he's on this list.

2. Antti Raanta. Goalie, New York Rangers.

Although he's not the Rangers full time starter, he has been over the past four games and he's been amazing. Giving Lundqvist competition for the starting position. Over the past month he has only let in 2 goals once. And during that time he had a shutout streak of 176 minutes, just about three full games. Raanta is putting up incredible numbers with a 1.65 GAA, and .943 SV%. Raanta is also a remarkable 8-1 and very surprisingly, might be the new starter in New York.

3. Sam Gagner. Centre, Columbus Blue Jackets.

The entire Blue Jackets team has been a complete surprise as they have now won 7 in a row, and have gotten points in 22 of 27 games overall. Gagner who has always been a very decent serviceable centre is having the start of a career year for himself leading this team into the playoffs. Gagner leads the team in goals with 12 and has 9 assists to go along with it for 21 points in 26 games. He is also a plus 9 so he is playing great for them right now.

4. David Pastrnak. Right Wing, Boston Bruins.

Boston is having a much better year than a lot of people originally expected, currently tied for 2nd in Atlantic division with Ottawa. One of the main reasons for this has been the goal scoring ability of Pastrnak. At one point this season he had scored a quarter of the teams goals. He currently has 18 in 25 games and has 24 points, just about being a point per game player. He is a plus 15, and is having a breakout year leading the Bruins into the playoffs, if anyone else gets as hot as him on the team they'll be very dangerous.

5. Jeff Carter. Centre, Los Angelas Kings.

Jeff Carter never slows down, and at the age of 31 is quietly having a great year, as he always does. Through 28 games Carter has 14 goals and 10 assists for 24 points and a .86 PPG average. Although the Kings are not having the best of starts to the season and are currently sitting outside the playoffs, a lot of that can be put on the goaltender injury issues that they have with Quick being out the whole season so far. Carter has been putting this team on his back and has 4 goals and 5 points in his last 5 games trying to get back into the playoffs.

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