Weekend Takeaways: Flames, Jets each stake claim for best in West

The Calgary Flames started the game by scoring four goals in the first twenty minutes as they rolled by the St. Louis Blues 7-2.

Proof that things are going well for the Calgary Flames is littered all over the place, like empty cans after a big night at the Stampede. What’s going on with the captain, though, might top the charts.

Mark Giordano registered another two points in Calgary’s 7–2 shellacking of the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon. With 35 points in 32 games on the year, Giordano is three shy of the 38 he posted in 82 contests last season and four back of the 39 produced in 81 the campaign prior.

Re-united with old partner T.J. Brodie after spending much of the past few years beside Dougie Hamilton, Giordano has hit an entirely new offensive gear during a season in which he turned 35 on opening night.

It’s impossible to talk about the Flames without mentioning the deal that sent Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and NCAA defenceman Adam Fox to the Hurricanes for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. Points were hard to come by for Hanifin at the start of the year, but he has 10 during his past 15 outings, as the Flames have surged to the top of the Pacific Division.

Lindholm, meanwhile, has been a beast since Day 1 with Calgary, playing alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the top unit. His 1-2-3 performance versus St. Louis — a victory that represented Calgary’s eighth win in its past nine showings — gives the Swede 37 points this year and puts him within spitting distance of the career-best 45 he produced with Carolina two seasons ago.

Lindholm has never finished a season as a plus player, yet woke up Monday tied (with Giordano, among others) for the best mark in in the NHL at plus-21. He’s also one of five Calgary players, along with Giordano, Monahan, Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, to be scoring at a point-per-game clip. The only other teams in the league with even four guys doing that are the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals.

With both fresh and familiar faces breaking new ground, the Pacific is officially Calgary’s to lose.

Other Weekend Takeaways

• Some variation of the following sentiment could be found all over Twitter Sunday night:

The Winnipeg Jets are 9-1-0 in their past 10 following their overtime win versus the Bolts. It’s no surprise to see the likes of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler leading the charge, and the next name to start getting more widespread buzz out of Winnipeg is likely that of defenceman Josh Morrissey. The Jets’ absurd ability to find elite first-round talent outside the top five (Scheifele seventh, Kyle Connor 17th, Nikolaj Ehlers ninth) is on display here again with the 13th-overall pick from the 2013 draft. Morrissey has 10 points during his past seven games and, at age 23, is making a huge leap forward offensively in his third NHL season.

• Calgary and Winnipeg are just two of the Canadian teams that have been on a recent roll. Have a look at the best results around the league since Nov. 30:


CGY 9 8 1 0 0 16
WPG 9 8 1 0 0 16
TB 8 7 0 0 1 15
EDM 9 6 2 0 1 13
MTL 8 6 2 0 0 12
WSH 8 6 2 0 0 12
ANA 7 6 1 0 0 12
SJ 8 6 2 0 0 12

• Speaking of hot, 14 goals for Alex Ovechkin in his past 11 outings, including four this weekend thanks to a second straight hat trick on Friday night in Carolina. Thirteen of those goals, by the way, have come at even strength. The fellas on the 31 Thoughts podcast carved out some time last week to discuss the possibility of ‘Ovie’ eventually surpassing Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 career goals:

Dec. 13, 2018: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
December 13 2018

My pod partner, Rory Boylen, has been on this one for a while, too. I think we all know which way we’d bet our nickel, but, man, it’s awesome we even get to entertain the idea of somebody taking on a signature benchmark from The Great One.

• What is Ryan O’Reilly thinking these days? Seriously, it’s like Patrice Bergeron Light just can’t find a winning situation. A core of O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog couldn’t do in Colorado what the crew there is doing now. He comes to Buffalo three years ago when the team has just drafted Jack Eichel and it seems like the Sabres are on the upswing. After nothing but losing, he’s on the move to a semi-stable place like St. Louis, where the Blues figured to be in the thick of it this year. Now there’s talk the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko could be heading out the door as St. Louis spirals to the bottom of the standings. Ugh.

• Of course, if you’re a Buffalo fan, your view is that O’Reilly gave up too early on the Sabres. It’s easy to believe in Buffalo with the way Eichel played in his hometown of Boston on Sunday. There are four-point nights, and then there are four-point nights where you have two dishes worthy of Magic Johnson to go along with a top-shelf snipe.

• Tweets like these are never a good sign. I know Chuck Fletcher just took the GM job, but it’s time to get crackin’ on some solutions in Philly.

Red and White Power Rankings

1. Winnipeg Jets (22-9-2): Presently riding a five-game winning streak, the past three of which came in overtime.

2. Calgary Flames (22-10-2): Just two regulation-time losses in his past 13 outings for David Rittich, who is becoming quite a Czech find.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (21-10-2): Tough week for the Buds, but seven of their next nine at home should help them return to winning ways.

4. Edmonton Oilers (18-13-3): Darnell Nurse’s time on ice in the past four games in the absence of Oscar Klefbom, starting with the one on Dec. 11 in which Klefbom’s hand was injured: 30:44, 31:04 (overtime loss), 27:50, 27:50. Nurse has six points in that stretch.

5. Montreal Canadiens (17-11-5): The Habs beat Ottawa by the same 5-2 score three times in the span of 12 days, including on Saturday night. Shea Weber has four goals in nine games since returning from a knee injury.

6. Vancouver Canucks (16-16-4): A couple more victories this week and we’ll definitely start hearing about whether or not this up-and-coming crew can crack the post-season this year.

7. Ottawa Senators (14-16-4): A couple more losses and we’ll definitely start hearing more about this team not having its first pick in the draft this year.

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

Tape to Tape

It’s almost time for the World Junior Hockey Championship, so naturally we’re going to bring Sportsnet’s prospect guru Sam Cosentino by for a visit. ‘Sammy Coz’ will give his thoughts on Team Canada and highlight some draft-eligible youngsters to watch for in the tournament, as well as prospects who’ve already been selected by Canadian clubs.

Looking ahead

• The NHL trade freeze hits one minute before midnight on Dec. 19. Quick, 29 other GMs, make some calls to Doug Armstrong in St. Louis and Fletcher in Philly: They’re just itchin’ to do something big!

• Sid vs. red-hot Ovie on Wednesday night.

Max Domi returns to the desert on Thursday, as the Canadiens will see old friend Alex Galchenyuk with the Arizona Coyotes.

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