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CENTRE OF ATTENTION

Scoring goals and coming up big when your team needs it - just all in a day's work for Sean Monahan

by TY PILSON @typilson / calgaryflames.com

Consistent and clutch.

Pretty much the two most sought after qualities for any NHLer.

Just so happens, both describe Flames centre Sean Monahan to a T.

First the consistent: The fifth-year pivot has 13 goals in his last 20 games, dating back to the playoffs. He scored four goals in four games against Anaheim, added three goals in four pre-season skates, and has six tallies in 12 games to start the new campaign.

Then there's the clutch: His third-period goal against Washington Sunday night was his fourth game-winning goal of the season, tying him atop the NHL in that category with Chicago's Brandon Saad and Philly's Wayne Simmonds.

Flames assistant coach Martin Gelinas knows a thing or two about scoring big goals, of course earning the nickname The Eliminator for his 2004 playoff heroics.

Count him among those amazed at Monahan's efficiency and effectiveness.

"It's incredible," said Gelinas. "And he's so young and he's got so much growth and potential that he's only going to get better. And it sure helps to have (Johnny Gaudreau) playing with him. But he's got a knack for getting to the right place at the right time.

"He's got a talent, he's got a gift, for just finding that little space," he continued. "And he has a quick release, too, so even if he has just a foot he'll take advantage of it. He's so good, so quick in tight."

Coming off back-to-back 27-goal seasons, the 2013 first-round pick - who is currently leading the team with 35 shots - adds stability to the Flames game, giving them a constant scoring threat night-in and night-out.

"Most young guys go through cycles and there will be ups and that," said Gelinas. "He's been steady. Since Day 1 you knew what you're going to get with Mony. Every time he's on the ice, you know what to expect. He's a good two-way player but he'll chip in the big goals. When the game is on the line, he steps up his game and finds a way to get the big goals."

Not surprisingly, his long-term linemate and good pal Gaudreau has assisted on five of Monahan's six goals this year.

The two have incredible chemistry on the ice, as evidenced by Gaudreau's seeing-eye pass right onto Monahan's stick as he was parked beside the net for a tap-in to seal the win against the Caps.

"He's a great player, got a great shot and makes my job really easy," said Gaudreau. "I just try to find him.

"He has a knack for finding those scoring areas. He's done it for the past five seasons now. Guys know he's a great goal-scorer so we try to find him as much as possible."

Never one to seek the limelight or praise, Monahan is quick to credit others and downplay his accomplishments when asked about his reliability - and flare for the dramatic.

"That's kind of my job," he said. "I have to be able to produce and with the opportunities I have - playing on the powerplay and playing important offensive minutes. If you don't produce you're not going to play. So I think you gotta keep working hard and I play with great players."

His ability to settle into the perfect spots and convert when the puck comes his way speaks to his high hockey IQ.

Because being in the right place at the right time is much easier said than done, as it's the often elusive goal of most NHLers.

"You just kind of read the game," said Monahan. "And when you have those soft, quiet areas and you can get yourself open. I've been playing with Johnny for a long time, too. I know if I get open and get in those spots, a lot of the time now Johnny is finding me."

 "That's what you work towards," he added, of being someone the team can count on. "I want to be a strong, reliable centre. I think I still have a lot to improve and I mean consistency is the biggest part of that."

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