Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sean Monahan: Mr. Clutch

Interviewing Sean Monahan can be excruciating.

While he's always willing -- and sure, I suppose there's something to be said about that, his monotone responses are mostly blah clich├ęs and rarely do you see any emotion from him.

But, woe is me.

More importantly for this hockey club and for fans of the Calgary Flames, it's those same qualities -- always even-keel, never fazed, calm to a point it's almost creepy, that is helping Monahan cement a reputation across the NHL as a clutch player. He's the guy you want to have the puck, the guy you know is going to deliver that important goal when your team needs it most.

That was the case again last night in one of the Flames biggest wins of the season. Mark Giordano's shot deflects off a player in front to Monahan at the side of the net, where he methodically and coolly buries it as routinely as he would fire a puck into an empty net while shooting around during practice. Overtime, practice -- that heart rate just doesn't seem to climb ever.

Saturday night was Monahan's fourth career overtime goal. In terms of regular season OT winners, Elias Sports confirms that leaves him only two out of the Flames all-time lead. Two! The kid just turned 20 less than four months ago.

Flames All-Time Overtime Goal Leaders (regular season):

1. Jarome Iginla, 6
2. Theoren Fleury, 5
3. Sean Monahan, 4
    Valeri Bure, 4

It's not like we're dealing with a limited sampling of players either. Overtime came into being in the NHL over 30 years ago, way back in 1983-84. So while the likes of Kent Nilsson and Lanny McDonald only had OT for a portion of their career, it was always a part of the game for Flames greats Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Hakan Loob, Doug Gilmour, Gary Roberts, Al MacInnis -- and Monahan has passed all those guys already.

Going back to Monahan's rookie season, he is tied for the most OT goals in the NHL.

NHL Overtime Goal Leaders (from start of 2013-14 season):

1. Sean Monahan CGY, 4
    Oliver Ekman-Larsson PHX, 4
3. John Tavares NYI, 3
    Alexander Ovechkin WSH, 3
    James Neal NSH, 3
    Brad Marchand BOS, 3
    Ryan O'Reilly COL, 3
    Tyson Barrie COL, 3

In another gem unearthed from Elias, Monahan is the youngest player in NHL history to reach four OT goals in his career. Wow. Just wow.


Shootouts Are No Different

Let's also not forget that when the game isn't solved in overtime, Monahan has also shown that he's the man when it comes to shootouts. He's proved this several times already. Nearly 20,000 fans packed in an arena, everyone focused on him and him alone. No problem.

NHL Shootout Deciding-Goal Leaders (from start of 2013-14 season):

1. TJ Oshie STL, 6
2. Sean Monahan CGY, 5
    Anze Kopitar LA, 5
    Frans Nielsen NYI, 5
    Kyle Okposo NYI, 5
    Nicklas Backstrom WSH, 5
    Joffrey Lupul TOR, 5
 
He just seems to thrive when the puck is on his stick and the game is on the line. In his short career, Monahan is the leader in shootout proficiency among all active NHL players.

NHL Shootout Percentage Leaders (all active players, minimum of five goals):

1. Sean Monahan CGY, 63.6% (7 for 11)
2. Jakob Silfverberg ANA, 57.1% (12 for 21)
3. Frans Nielsen NYI, 55.2% (37 for 67)
4. Tyler Bozak TOR, 54.5% (12 for 22)
5. TJ Oshie STL, 53.8% (28 for 52)


Overtime + Shootout = Money (aka Mony)

If the NHL was to track clutch goals and defined it as OT goals plus game-deciding shootout goals, considering Monahan's ranking on each of those two respective lists as already documented -- tied for first and second, you're correct if you guessed that over this year and last, he sits alone at No. 1 in the NHL.

NHL Clutch Scoring -- OT + Game-Deciding Shootout Goals:
(from start of 2013-14 season):

1. Sean Monahan CGY, 9
2. TJ Oshie STL, 8
3. Anze Kopitar LA, 7
4. Ryan Johansen CBJ, 6
    Nicklas Backstrom WSH, 6
    Joffrey Lupul TOR, 6
    Kyle Okposo NYI, 6
8. Vladimir Tarasenko STL, 5
    David Desharnais MTL, 5
    Ryan Kesler ANA, 5
    Sidney Crosby PIT, 5
    Frans Nielsen NYI, 5
    Andrew Ladd WPG, 5
    Antoine Vermette ARI, 5
    Matt Duchene COL, 5

That's some pretty good company Monahan is hanging out with and all of them, obviously, are older. In fact, of the 15 names on the list above, the only two players younger than age 24 are Ryan Johansen (22) and Vladimir Tarasenko (23).


January 20, 2015 Update - In addition to Monahan's prowess in extra time, he's also had a penchant for scoring the big third period goal. His tying goal against Los Angeles on Jan. 19 in what ended up being a 2-1 victory for the Flames was the sixth time in his career he has scored a third period goal that has either tied the game or put Calgary into the lead. The breakdown of those six is three tying goals, three go-ahead goals.


Clutch in May

It remains to be determined if the Flames can find their way into the playoffs this season, but the post-season is coming and it's coming soon. When spring hockey does return to Calgary, it's going to be players like Monahan that are going to be key.

Not key for me -- there will always be better go-to guys for quotes -- Sam Bennett for one when he gets here, you can tell already he's cut out of a different fabric than Monahan when it comes to that side of things. But key for this hockey club are guys with the inane ability like Monahan to consistently perform under pressure and deliver a clutch goal when it's needed. It's a critical ingredient of any successful hockey team and those guys are not easy to find.

Given the reputation Monahan is forging for himself already, just imagine the following and reputation he'll have around Calgary and around the league when OT goals in the opening minute of a game in January morph into OT goals in the second overtime period of a game in May. Bring on the Red Mile and fans in Monahan jerseys celebrating everywhere.

So get ready to move over Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Justin Williams to make room for No. 23 of the Flames.

Twenty years old. My goodness. What a bright future for this kid.


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2 comments:

  1. Monahan also has 2 OT assists.

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  2. Wow! After last year and Monahan's great year, I was expecting a step back this season. Monahan had high shooting percentage, that was due to regress to a more sustainable rate. I'm satisfied that Monahan will continue down this path exceptional scoring path. Nearly all his goals are uptight to the net, inside the home plate. He has a knack for being in the right areas, and when the puck gets to him, he buries his opporitunity. Sean Monahan is the real deal.

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