It has been five years since Johnny Gaudreau was the big man on campus at Boston College.
The hottest player in hockey returned to Beantown Thursday where he was every bit as dominant as he was as the Hobey Baker Award winner in 2013-14.
A goal and an assist as part of a 6-4 loss to the Bruins gave the 25-year Flames All-Star 10 points in his last three games.
His goal, which came on his sixth shot of the night, proved how fortuitous things have been for him of late, as it was a shot from behind the goal line he clearly aimed to squeeze between Jaroslav Halak and the post.
Somehow it worked.
It brought the Flames within one of the host Bruins, at 4-3.
With three-and-a-half minutes left the Flames got within one again, before Brad Marchand’s second of the night ended the Flames hopes of yet another late comeback.
Takeaways from a night in which Gaudreau was dangerous all night as the game’s best player.
MORE JOHNNY HOCKEY
Fresh off of being named the NHL’s second star of December with the most productive month of his career (11 goals and 26 points in 14 games), Gaudreau had two more breakaways to add to the three he had one night earlier in Detroit.
Okay, so perhaps he could use a little work on those one-on-one goalie showdowns, but everything else has been sublime of late.
A world-class setup by Gaudreau for Austin Czarnik was stymied with 10 minutes left – one of several stunningly creative passes he made on the night.
Long gone are the nights where Gaudreau was a “perimeter” player who disappeared from time to time – he’s now one of the best and most dangerous players on the ice every single night he plays.
While he still doesn’t get the credit he probably deserves, he’s among the biggest reasons the Flames hit the halfway mark with the second-best record (54 points) in franchise lore.
Only the Flames from 1988-89, who won the Cup, started better.
Even on the second breakaway he missed, Elias Lindholm was there to bang in the puck for his 20th of the year.
Lindholm leads all NHLers playing on new teams, with 48 points.
Quite a top line they make with Sean Monahan.
Yet, there will be plenty of talk over the next few days concerning the fact Gaudreau didn’t share the purple Gatorade with the lads following his latest snipe. It’s kind of a thing around here.
It has been three games since Michael Frolik’s agent, Allan Walsh, raised eyebrows by suggesting Bill Peters was misusing the veteran winger with an eye on running him out of town.
Frolik has since been given a steady diet of second line minutes, responding with two assists in his first game, an empty-netter in his second and a short-handed goal Thursday in Beantown.
He’s played a significant part in every game’s storyline despite the fact his minutes are nowhere near the 15 and 16-minute marks he eclipsed last season.
On Thursday his 11 minutes were solid, as was his shortie.
It gave the Flames their league-leading 13th shorthanded goal just as Frolik left the penalty box for a 5-on-3 situation Smith played a big role in defending against.
As versatile as Frolik is, you can bet the noise from his agent will prompt the Flames to consider any offers they may receive for Frolik before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
No, they don’t need to shop him, but if the right offer came along they’d consider it, especially given he has one more year left on his five-year deal with a $4.3 million cap hit.
They’ll certainly be looking to open up cap space to sign Matthew Tkachuk and a pair of goalies.
All told, Mike Smith saved 21 of 26 shots, but it almost came to pass he wouldn’t make any at all.
Smith took a high slap shot from Mikael Backlund to the head in warmup that knocked him to the ground and seemed to stun the veteran.
He went straight to the locker room, prompting concerns backup Jon Gillies might get the nod.
Alas, Smith played and was quite solid early on.
You can’t pin the loss on him, but there were certainly two goals he allowed that simply can’t go in on a team hoping to be a legit contender this spring.
The clear starter on the team now, David Rittich, is on the four-game road trip but missed his second game with a lower-body injury.
The coach hinted Rittich may be ready to return to action as early as Saturday’s matinee in Philadelphia.
Flames farmhand Curtis Lazar was named Thursday to the AHL All-Star Game to be played later this month. The former first-rounder has 25 points in 30 games and leads the team in power play points and is second in goals (11) and assists (14) … Flames legend Jarome Iginla took in the game with sons Tij and Joe both wearing no. 12 Flames jerseys with their last name on the back. The Iginla family live in Boston, and during a first-period intermission interview with Ryan Leslie, the club’s all-time leading scorer admitted the family has become big fans of the Flames again, now that he’s a little more comfortable with retirement and watching hockey again … James Neal squandered a brilliant opportunity to tie the game when he missed the net with a shot on a 2-on-1 set up brilliantly by Derek Ryan … Mark Jankowski’s assist on Frolik’s goal was his league-leading seventh short-handed point of the year. He’s on pace to beat Hakan Loob’s franchise mark of 13 set in the 80’s.