Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Night Full of Pluses for Kris Russell

Literally and figuratively, there were plenty of pluses when it came to Kris Russell's game on Saturday night.

In one of the best games of Russell's seven NHL seasons, the Flames defenceman scored the game's first goal and was on the ice for all five of Calgary's goals, which were all even-strength. His career-best plus-5 helped Calgary to a badly needed 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.

(My game story on Saturday's 5-2 victory, as filed for The Canadian Press. It's focused around Mike Cammalleri, who paced the Flames offence with two goals and an assist.)

How good of an evening was it for the native of Caroline, Alberta? Only twice before in 374 NHL games had Russell finished a game greater than plus-2. On both of those nights, which were three seasons apart,  he was a plus-3:
  • Mar. 23, 2013 - With St. Louis, at Edmonton, 3-0 W (defence partner was Roman Polak)
  • Nov. 30, 2009 - With Columbus, vs St. Louis, 5-2 W (defence partner was Mike Commodore)

Furious Start for the Flames

The evening began about as good as an opening shift in an NHL game can go. Russell and his defence partner all season, Dennis Wideman -- also a career-best plus-five on the night (three times Wideman has been a plus-4, the latest was Mar. 7, 2009), combined with the starting forward line of Mike Cammalleri alongside Calgarians Joe Colborne and TJ Galiardi, to hem the puck in the Capitals' end for nearly the entire 64 seconds it took to eventually generate the first goal. Calgary took a 1-0 lead when Russell's wrist shot through a screen beat Braden Holtby.

"It was huge. It's always important to get a good first few shifts," said Russell, who was recognized post-game with the Flames fire hat, which is given out by the players after each win. "If you can score early, you can build momentum and especially in your home rink."

After limping home from a long, gruelling road trip with a 1-4-0 record, it was important for the Flames to jump out to an early lead and regain the good feeling the club had when it started the season 3-0-2.

"Especially the way the last few games went on the road, we knew we had to have a big game, especially against a team like this with how much offensive power they have," said Russell. "We had to have a sharp start and I thought we did a great job.”

Russell also added an assist to give him five points in the season's first 11 games. Last season with the St. Louis Blues, he managed only seven points in 33 games. At his current pace, he'll eclipse his previous high of 23 points in 2010-11 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team that drafted Russell from the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry draft.

“Russell played very, very well. I thought that he jumped in the play and made some great decisions with the puck defensively," said Flames coach Bob Hartley. "For a small-sized defenseman it is pretty unbelievable how he’s always in the play. He always finds a way to get it done. A very intelligent player.”

Don't Judge Him By His Size

Russell is listed as 5-foot-10 and 173 pounds. He's the only Flames defenceman under six-foot and he and TJ Brodie (182 pounds) are the lone Calgary blue-liners south of 195 pounds. But as he showed, weight and height are no measure of a player's will.

Russell also played a strong game defensively versus Washington. In one sequence in the third period with the Capitals pressing to get back in the game, he denied a scoring opportunity for the ever-dangerous Russian sniper Alex Ovechkin.  Bursting down the right wing with a ton of speed, Ovechkin tried to get past Russell but Russell stood his ground -- sort of, and denied him. Russell went tumbling backwards as can happen when you're giving up five inches and over 55 pounds but it was a significant defensive 'stand' and preserved momentum for the Flames.

“You don't want him to get past you, first of all," said Russell, who was acquired by Calgary in the summer in exchange for a fifth round draft pick in 2014. "You know he's a shooter and he likes to shoot through you so I just tried to do the best job I could of staying in his lane and trying to get as much body and stick in front of him as I could."

Ovechkin would finish the night without a point for the first time in eight career games against the Flames. He had eight goals and seven assists in his first seven games versus Calgary. He also entered the night as the NHL's leading goal scorer with 10 and third in points with 15.

"Guys like him, with his special talent, you have to have a five-man unit out there defensively and I think our forwards did a great job of coming back hard and even when they did get opportunities, that back-check was there and we took their second chances away," Russell said. "Obviously (Karri) Ramo made some big saves, especially that one power play on Ovechkin coming across so whenever you get those saves, it's huge as well."

Restoring that Winning Feeling

Kicking off a pivotal three-game home-stand, which will be followed by another very difficult road trip, Russell said it was important that the Flames get back to their good habits from the start of the year.

"We needed to get back to the basics. That's why were successful earlier. We're not a team that can rely on one line to score every night," Russell said. "We did a better job tonight of throughout our line-up, coming in waves. Every shift, we kind of had momentum and if we lost it, the next shift had the task of getting it back and I think we did a really good job of that."

With Calgary missing the services of captain Mark Giordano for the third game in a row, the rest of the club's veteran defencemen continue to see more ice time. Russell's 27:12 was his highest haul of the season and second most minutes played in a single game in his career. With Columbus, he played 28:18 in a victory over the Edmonton Oilers back on Mar. 15, 2010. 

The Flames now have three days off to prepare for their next test, which is Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Desperately Seeking Context for Monahan's Shooting Percentage

Sean Monahan has been a member of the Calgary Flames organization for less than four months. It's absolutely staggering this young man's rise in fame and popularity over such a short period.

While it's easy to get caught up in the hype, it's so obvious it shouldn't need saying that there will be a regression at some point. Five games, 10 games, maybe 15 games without a goal -- some sort of cold stretch is coming and there may be a few of them.

Monahan's goal-scoring prowess -- a remarkable six goals in his first eight NHL games -- has come as a result of a 31.6 shooting percentage that is absolutely and unequivocally unsustainable over a full season. Sorry if this is coming as a surprise.

This is not to say he won't be a prolific goal scorer this year, assuming that Flames management decides to... well, you know. Heck, with the start he's manufactured, he could very well reach 30 goals just like then-rookies and now-KHLers Marek Svatos (32) and Peter Prucha (30) did in 2005-06 (and in 61 and 68 games respectively, no less).

What 'people' -- fans, media and the like, need to be honest about is Monahan is not going to score 61 goals, which is the ridiculous pace he's currently on.

Shooting Percentage in a Season

So, what is a realistic shooting percentage over the span of a full NHL season? To sum it up in two words -- significantly lower. In the previous 15 seasons, only 42 players in the entire NHL -- an average of less than three per season, have finished the year at 20 percent or above.

Typically, a NHL team's shooting percentage will fall somewhere between 7 and 11 percent and naturally, the league average from year-to-year is somewhere in the middle. However, if you parse it out, the shooting percentage for forwards will always be much higher than for defencemen.

As an example, from 2008 to 2013, the Calgary Flames team shooting percentage of 9.2 percent has been comprised of 10.7 percent for forwards and 5.0 percent for defencemen.

Here are the top 10 shooting percentage seasons, by individual, since 1997-98:

1. Mike Ribeiro, Dal – 25.2 in 2007-08 (76 gm, 27 g, 107 s)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn, Nsh – 24.7 in 2010-11 (77 gm, 23 g, 93 s)
3. Curtis Glencross, Cgy – 23.6 in 2011-12 (67 gm, 26 g, 110 s)
4. Alex Tanguay, Col – 23.2 in 2005-06 (71 gm, 29 g, 125 s)
5. Petr Prucha, NYR – 23.1 in 2005-06 (68 gm, 30 g, 130 s)
6. Patrik Berglund, Stl – 23.0 in 2012-13 (48 gm, 17 g, 74 s)
7. Mike Eastwood, Stl – 22.9 in 1999-00 (79 gm, 19 g, 83 s)
8. Mark Parrish, NYI – 22.9 in 2003-04 (59 gm, 24 g, 105 s)
9. Anson Carter, Van – 22.6 in 2005-06 (81 gm, 33 g, 146 s)
10. Gary Roberts, Tor – 22.6 in 2003-04 (72 gm, 28 g, 124 s)

It's an interesting collection of names, isn't it. There aren't as many household names as one might expect. There's one current Flame, two ex-Flames and Eastwood, Parrish and Carter, that sounds more like a Manhattan law firm.

Shooting Percentages in 2013-14

As for this season, Monahan is hardly alone in being overly opportunistic in the first few weeks. In fact, there are seven players that have had an even shinier golden touch around the opposition net.

Here are the top 10 shooting percentages after Monday night's games.

1. Valtteri Filppula, TB - 44.4 (8 gm, 4 g, 9 s)
2. David Backes, Stl - 42.9 (7 gm, 6 g, 14 s)
3. Chris Kelly, Bos - 37.5 (7 gm, 3 g, 8 s)
4. Alexander Steen, Stl - 35.0 (7 gm, 7 g, 20 s)
5. Boyd Gordon, Edm - 33.3 (9 gm, 4 g, 12 s)
5. Jonas Brodin, Min - 33.3 (9 gm, 3 g, 9 s)
5. Craig Adams, Pit - 33.3 (9 gm, 3 g, 9 s)
8. Sean Monahan, Cal - 31.6 (8 gm, 6 g, 19 s)
9. Marcel Goc, Fla - 30.0 (9 gm, 3 g, 10 s)
10. Vladimir Tarasenko, Stl - 28.6 (7 gm, 4 g, 14 s)

Percentage of a Team's Goals

I don't know about you but it sure feels like Monahan has scored at least half of the Flames goals so far -- and of course, red-hot Jiri Hudler has scored the other half.

However, upon further analysis, while Monahan has accounted for nearly a quarter of the Flames offence at 23.1 percent of Calgary's goals, that barely lands him in the top 10.

Here is the top 10 after Monday's games, which shows which players are shouldering the biggest portion of their team's offensive load so far:

1. Brad Richards, NYR - 36.4 (4 of 11)
2. Alex Ovechkin, Wsh - 30.0 (6 of 20)
3. Ryan Callahan, NYR -27.3 (3 of 11)
4. Alexander Steen, Stl - 26.9 (7 of 26)
5. Henrik Zetterberg, Det - 25.0 (6 of 24)
5. Tomas Vanek, Buf - 25.0 (3 of 12)
7. Jason Spezza, Ott - 23.8 (5 of 21)
7. Evander Kane, Wpg - 23.8 (5 of 21)
9. Sidney Crosby, Pit - 23.3 (7 of 30)
10. Sean Monahan, Cgy - 23.1 (6 of 26)
10. David Backes, Stl - 23.1 (6 of 26)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blocked Shots Becoming a Part of the Flames Identity

Eleven days into the 2013-14 NHL regular season, there are a few patterns developing for the Calgary Flames -- and all of them are good.

For one, it seems rookie sensation Sean Monahan is going to score every game so that's a positive for this supposedly rebuilding hockey club.

(My story for The Canadian Press on Friday night, focused on Monahan's dream start and the Flames unprecedented start.)

Secondly, the Flames are blocking a lot of shots and by a lot of shots, I mean a lot of shots. Calgary players have successfully dropped in front of 92 shots through five games. Going into Saturday's games, that ranks the Flames No. 1 in the NHL in that badge-of-honour category which embodies courage, determination, heart, commitment -- and requires a whole bunch of post-game ice bags.

The Philadelphia Flyers are second (86) and the Toronto Maple Leafs are third (79).

The third pattern, very much a by-product of the first two, is this team has yet to lose in regulation through its first five games. Such a feat has only happened once before and that was 25 years ago in 1988-89, which just happens to be the only season the Flames have won the Stanley Cup.

"When you watch your team-mates lying in front of pucks, slapshots, one-timers, and then they generate a scoring chance for themselves because of it. It's a great feeling," said Flames captain Mark Giordano, "It's a great feeling to know that the guys are really buying in and doing whatever it takes to win."

Giordano was alluding in particular to a furious display of shot blocking by the Flames during a frantic sequence midway through the third period in which with the scored tied 2-2, New Jersey had the Flames hemmed in for a minute-and-a-half and poured on the pressure but couldn't get any shots through on goaltender Joey MacDonald.

Warrior Mentality

In the middle of all the frantic action was Lance Bouma and TJ Galiardi, who were diving and sprawling everywhere -- Bouma getting his 6-foot-1 frame in front of a pair of dangerous chances. To deservedly cap off one of the grittier shifts you'll ever see, the two then ended up on a two-on-one rush the other direction that Bouma was not able to finish off after being set up neatly by Galiardi. 

But, no matter.

As Bouma and Galiardi dragged themselves to the Flames bench to mercifully grab a sip of water after gruelling shifts that were 2:24 and 2:04 in length respectively, much of the sell-out crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome rose to its feet to applaud their gutsy efforts. 

"You just read the play and think when is he going to shoot it. Read what he's doing and just try and get in front of it however you can," said Bouma.

Asked how many ice bags he'd need to apply, Bouma admitted with a smile that he's need at least a couple on this night. "I'll need a few, for sure, I'm not sure how many, I'll have to count them up."
Post-game, it was Giordano's turn to acknowledge Bouma's efforts.

"Boumer... that's about as good of a shift as you'll have in the defensive zone," said Giordano. "You don't really see that very often where they give you a standing ovation after a defensive shift. We're giving them an exciting brand of hockey and they're loving it."

Down the hall in the Devils dressing room, a dejected Jaromir Jagr pointed to that sequence as a key moment

"We had it for a minute and a half but they were able to block everything," said Jagr, who along with linemates Danius Zubrus and Patrik Elias were on the ice for the Devils for the barrage.

Despite the frustration you could see in his eyes and hear in his voice, Jagr still managed to mix in some humour as he reflected on the chances that got away in that one frenzied scramble.

"They're smart, huh. They're tired so they laid down," Jagr said. "Everybody does it, so do you. When you're tired, you go sleep. They went down but we couldn't lift the puck up. We had so many chances."
Top Ten Filled With Flames

Impressively, when you look specifically at shots blocked by forwards, Calgary has four players in the top 10.

Tied for third with eight is Galiardi. Tied for fifth with seven is Curtis Glencross, Mikael Backlund and David Jones -- who is on the IR listed as week-to-week with an upper body injury. The overall team leader on the Flames is Chris Butler with 11. 

Sven Baertschi, who orchestrated the winning goal with a terrific pass to Monahan with less than three minutes remaining in the game, says watching guys lay out in front of opposing shooters makes you want to do better yourself when you're on the ice.

"I've known (Bouma) for a while now and I know how passionate he is and how much he sacrifices himself for the team and that's something I'm really amazed by," said Baertschi.

"It makes you want to go hard and makes you want to do the same things. Having him on the team and that whole PK group has done an amazing job," Baertschi added. "To see those guys sacrifice their body. When you're out there and you have to play offence, that's something that really gets you going."

New Identity Being Forged

Calgary can't sustain the level of play they've begun the season with, everyone knows that. But this new identity they're forging is winning them a lot of fans and is making for some pretty darn exciting hockey on a nightly basis and there's something to be said about that. 

Next up is the most difficult assignment yet, however, a five-game roadie that starts next Wednesday in Anaheim. 

Giordano says that in the absence of important pieces like the hobbled veterans Jones, Mike Cammalleri, and Matt Stajan, they need to just keep doing what they're doing.

"We have to have a big road trip. We're playing some of the best teams in the league coming up here. You ain't going to beat those teams if you don't play the right way," said Giordano. "We're looking forward to it. We have to bring the juice."

Yes, indeed, bring the juice, and don't forget the band aids, Advil and ice packs too.

Related Flames Reading
  • 12 Key Factors if the Flames Are to Contend for a Playoff Spot - They're not expected to be very good but the Calgary Flames weren't supposed to be very good in 2003-04 either and they nearly won the Stanley Cup. My pre-season look at 12 things that (mostly) need to happen for Calgary to be in the playoff chase this season.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Putting the Amazing Start to Sean Monahan's NHL Career in Historical Context

Find Sean Monahan a real estate agent because he might be going house shopping in Calgary very soon.

The soon-to-be 19-year-old rookie centre continues to show that he is more than capable of playing in the NHL right now and making a significant impact, too. The latest exhibit was a dazzling goal and an assist effort in a 3-2 Calgary Flames victory Wednesday night over the Montreal Canadiens.

Monahan's ice time keeps rising, his responsibilities keep increasing, and the points keep on coming. Monahan has begun his NHL career with an impressive four-game points streak (3 goals, 2 assists).

The last time a Flames 'rookie' had points in each of his first four games, that player's name was Sergei Makarov and the season was 1989-90, the year after Calgary won the Stanley Cup. Here's how Makarov began his career in Calgary:
  • Oct. 5/89 vs Det - 1 g, 2 a =  3 pts
  • Oct. 7/89 vs NYI - 1 g, 3 a = 4 pts
  • Oct. 10/89 at NJ - 0 g, 1 a = 1 pt
  • Oct. 11/89 at NYR - 0 g, 1 a = 1 pt
Mind you, there is the subtle difference that Makarov was 31 years old, had already appeared in over 500 games in the Soviet Union and had also played in three Winter Olympics by then. (Needless to say, the NHL's rookie rule was rewritten after that season.)

As Monahan Goes, the Flames Go

By no coincidence, the Flames are rolling right along with Monahan. In a year in which many picked Calgary to finish near the league cellar, they have opened the season going an improbable four consecutive games without a regulation loss. If not for a couple of third period sags, they could very well be sitting a perfect 4-0-0 right now. Stunning. The last time the Flames picked up a point in each of their first four games was 2009-10 when they won four straight to begin the year.

The Flames have only accomplished this feat a total of three times since moving to Calgary in 1980. They also did it in 2001-02 (3-0-1) and in 1993-94 (4-0-0).  In the spirit of this stat, however, you could technically also include 1988-89. That season the Flames started off 2-0-2 by today's measurements but the second game was an overtime loss and back then you did not receive a point for that.

The other impressive number through the first week of the season is in over 248 minutes of game action, the Flames have only trailed for 13:20 -- that was during a pair of one-goal deficits on Sunday versus the Canucks.

Now it's still early, for sure, with six long months still to go but this 2013-14 version of the Calgary Flames looks absolutely rejuvenated compared to past editions. They're quick, they're relentless on the forecheck, their first passes and exits out of the defensive zone are as assertive and confident as we've seen in recent memory. This is a completely different team under the guidance of new captain Mark Giordano.

While there are a lot of factors contributing to Calgary's unexpected hot start -- Lee Stempniak, Joey MacDonald to name just a couple, the guy wearing No. 23 has got to be at the top of the list.

Monahan's two points Wednesday against Montreal were not cheapies. In fact, none of his points so far have been. On his goal, he initiated the sequence with a nifty behind-the-back pass before smartly dashing to the front of the net and then hitting the brakes to be right there in the front row to deftly flick in Stempniak's rebound.

Next, it was Monahan's sublime pass to Sven Baertschi in front to make it 2-0. Unlike most players who in that same scenario would have corralled the puck first and then looked up and tried to find a target. Monahan looked back to identify his passing option first so when he did reel in the puck after the long rebound, he immediately spun and zipped the puck right on the tape of Baertschi in front, who neatly steered in his first goal of the year. Those two goals showcased just how much raw offensive talent Monahan possesses.

Drifting Further Away From Ottawa

The Ottawa 67's haven't re-assigned their captain's C yet. They're holding it for you know who. But it's gotten to the point now where if Monahan ends up being returned to the OHL, it is going to absolutely stun the city of Calgary. I can't even imagine what the reaction would be with the fan base, never mind inside the home dressing room. I just can't see it happening. Usually when guys return to junior, it's to get bigger and stronger. That just isn't an issue with Monahan who did his obligatory 'get bigger and stronger' last summer after being drafted when he packed on over 10 pounds to up his chassis to a solid 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.

Since the nine-game audition for junior-eligible players came into being in the NHL -- allowing teams to ship a player back to the CHL and delay by one year the start of their three-year entry level contract, the highest scoring player to be sent down was Colorado's Wojtek Wolski. In 2005-06, Wolski had two goals and four assists in nine games with the Avalanche when they decided to send him back to Brampton (OHL).

Gilbert Brule, also in 2005-06,  is the only other player to have scored four or more points in their trial and be returned to junior. Brule had two goals and two assists in seven games with Columbus before the Blue Jackets dispatched him back to Vancouver (WHL).

Best Starts to an NHL Career in Flames History

Beside Makarov, where does Monahan fit in, in terms of the fastest start by a Calgary Flames rookie?

I took a look back at the debuts of some of the greatest players this team has drafted and developed. While accurately documenting the starts for guys like Gary Roberts, Al MacInnis, Gary Suter and Dan Quinn is difficult to do with the lack of availability of game summaries from the early 80s, here are a bunch of others you'll fondly remember, who began their career in Calgary. Included is how many goals-assists-points they had through their first four NHL regular season games:
  • Joe Nieuwendyk, age 20, 1-0-1 in 1986-87
  • Brett Hull, age 22, 1-0-1 in 1986-87
  • Theoren Fleury, age 20, 0-5-5 in 1988-89 (three assists in game 2, two assists in game 3)
  • Cory Stillman, age 21, 0-2-2 in 1994-95
  • Jarome Iginla, age 19, 2-1-3 in 1996-97 
  • Derek Morris, age 19, 0-0-0 in 1997-98
  • Oleg Saprykin, age 18, 0-1-1 in 1999-00
  • Chuck Kobasew, age 20, 2-0-2 in 2002-03
  • Dion Phaneuf, age 20, 1-1-2 in 2005-06
  • David Moss, age 24, 3-0-3 in 2006-07
Nieuwendyk's totals came from late in the 1986-87 season when he joined the Flames after wrapping up his season at Cornell and played nine regular season games. He played six more games in the playoffs that year.

Nieuwendyk holds the Flames rookie points record with 92 points, which he set in 1987-88 when he notched 51 goals and 92 points. During that season in which Nieuwendyk won the Calder Memorial trophy as NHL rookie of the year, he was 2-1-3 through his first four games. Monahan is ahead of that pace.

What Lies Ahead

Conveniently for the Flames from an assessment perspective, the ultimate test to see where Monahan is at is coming soon. Next week, Calgary departs on a five-game road trip that begins with a treacherous three-game journey through California. They continue on to Phoenix before wrapping up in Dallas. We know Monahan will begin that road trip with the Flames. Considering the final game against the Stars will be the Calgary's 10th game, if he also finishes the road trip with the hockey club, we'll know what the Flames management team of Jay Feaster and Brian Burke decided.

Personally, I do have a prediction of what will happen and will fully admit it is different from what I would have said if you asked me a month ago or even two weeks ago. And as someone that has to watch this team play on a regular basis as my profession, I'll be delighted if my original inclination ends up being proven wrong. The product Calgary is putting on the ice right now is as exciting as it's been in many, many years and it makes it awfully fun to watch for everyone.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Teen Sensation Sean Monahan Joins Elite List

Sean Monahan joined an exclusive club Friday night becoming only the third Calgary Flames player all-time to score an NHL goal as an 18-year-old.

Sixteen seconds into his first shift of his second NHL game, Monahan bowled his way to the front of the Columbus net and with veteran Blue Jackets defenceman Jim Wisniewski unable to contain him, Monahan was right there to bang Lee Stempniak's rebound past reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.

Just like that, 2:27 into the first period and 24 hours after picking up his first NHL assist, Calgary had a 1-0 lead in the game and Monahan had his first career goal.

Monahan's goal comes eight days shy of his 19th birthday. The only other Calgary Flames players to score at a younger age were Dan Quinn in 1983-84 and Jarome Iginla in the 1996 playoffs.

Looks Like a Big League Player

There are several bullet points on the list of criteria that determines whether or not a young man is ready for full-time employment in the National Hockey League. Seemingly on a daily basis, Monahan continues to methodically check them off. Look at his goal, for just one example.

Don't let the roster page on the Flames website fool you, Monahan may have been 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds at some point last spring, but he isn't any longer. Through a hardcore off-ice conditioning program and a regimented diet that includes eating particular foods and certain fats, Monahan tipped the scales at 200 pounds at the Flames fitness testing prior to rookie camp. That new-found strength, 10 or 11 pounds more than he says he weighed at Flames development camp in mid-July, was evident on his goal. Poor Wisniewski looked like he was fending off a bear with a fly swatter in a one-sided match-up in front of the net.

Monahan, a native of Brampton, Ontario, is big, strong, mature, disciplined and focused. He's smart in both ends of the ice and there's no sense of panic in his game whatsoever. Even when he talks with the media, it's all business. Selfishly, when we turn on our digital recorders we always hope for Craig Conroy, but we always end up with Jonathan Toews. But really, small quibble.

Still A Kid At Heart

Thankfully, every now and then Monahan reminds us that no, he's not yet 27, that he does hold a birth certificate that shows him as 18 and not yet old enough to have a celebratory drink in his home province of Ontario. Last night, that sign came immediately after his goal. First, he celebrated on the ice -- Stempniak the first on the scene to give him a hug, joined immediately by Sven Baertschi, Shane O'Brien and Chris Butler. Then, he shared the moment by parading by the Flames players bench for the obligatory glove bumps.

All that time, just like how Wisniewski was over matched trying to fend off Monahan, Monahan's serious exterior had no chance of containing the jubilation of a kid having scored his first NHL goal. Busting through was a sensational ear-to-ear smile from Monahan that wasn't going to be repressed -- nor should it have been. Scoring your first goal in the NHL is a big moment in a player's life and one to be cherished. Making it even more enjoyable and apr├Ęs pro for a team-focused guy like Monahan was it came in a 4-3 victory.

With seven games to go on his NHL audition, it's still not known whether Monahan will be an Ottawa 67 come November 1 or still be with the Flames. But, he sure looks committed to making it an awfully hard decision for Brian Burke and Jay Feaster. Although I suppose if he continues to play like he has in the first two games, you could say he's committed to making it an awfully easy decision for the Flames brass.

Calgary's Teenage Sensations

The Flames all-time top 18-year-old was Dan Quinn. Calgary drafted Quinn with its first round pick in 1983 after he had a phenomenal year with the Belleville Bulls, racking up 59 goals and 88 assists in 70 games. (Although his 147 points, which was third best, was still 30 points behind league-leader Doug Gilmour.)

That fall, Quinn was returned to the OHL but only for a couple of months. After lighting it up once again -- 23 goals and a league-leading 59 points through his first 24 games, Calgary brought him to the NHL for good. Quinn was 18-and-a-half years old when he made his NHL debut on Dec. 6, 1983, and wearing No. 10, he had an immediate impact that first season. In 54 games, he scored 19 goals and 52 points, finishing fifth on the club in scoring behind Kent Nilsson, Ed Beers, Lanny McDonald and Hakan Loob.

Other than Quinn, occurrences of 18-year-olds in the Flames line-up have not been very common and have rarely had a significant impact. The only other player of note was Jarome Iginla.

After his WHL playoffs ended with Kamloops in 1996, 18-year-old Iginla flew to Calgary to join the Flames who were embroiled with the Chicago Blackhawks in an opening round playoff series. Iginla arrived in Calgary in time for game three at the Saddledome. The rest of his story may sound familiar. After picking up an assist in his first NHL game, he scored a goal in his second game. Iginla was just shy of 18 years and 10 months at the time. But for Iginla, both games were losses as the Flames were eliminated in a four-game sweep.

12 Youngest Goal Scorers in Calgary Flames History:

1. C Dan Quinn (drafted in 1983 - 1st round, 13th) in 1983-84 - 18 years, 6 or 7 months*
2. RW Jarome Iginla (drafted in 1985 - 1st round, 11th by Dallas) in 1996 playoffs - 18 years, 9 months (First regular season goal came in 1996-97 - 19 years, 3 months)
3. C Sean Monahan (drafted in 2013 - 1st round, 6th) in 2013-14 - 18 years, 11 months
4. D Derek Morris (drafted in 1996 - 1st round, 13th) in 1997-98 - 19 years, 1 month
5. LW Kevin Lavallee (drafted in 1980 - 2nd round, 32nd) in 1980-81 - 19 years, 1 or 2 months*
6. C Robert Reichel (drafted in 1989 - 4th round, 70th) in 1990-91 - 19 years, 3 months
7. D Al MacInnis (drafted in 1981 - 1st round, 15th) in 1982-83 - 19 years, 4 months
8. LW Sven Baertschi (drafted in 2011 - 1st round, 13th) in 2011-12 - 19 years, 5 months
9. D Robyn Regehr (drafted in 1998 - 1st round, 19th) in 1999-00 - 19 years, 6 months
10. LW Oleg Saprykin (drafted in 1999 - 1st round, 11th) in 2000-01 - 19 years, 8 months
11. LW Richard Kromm (drafted in 1982 - 2nd round, 32nd by NYI) in 1983-84 - 19 years, 8 months
12. D Brian Glynn (drafted in 1986 - 2nd round, 37th) in 1987-88 - 19 years, 10 months

* Was unable to determine the exact date of his first goal but through research was able to narrow it down.

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