VANCOUVER, BC -- If skating to 20:09, tops among all forwards, in a series opening 2-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks didn’t quell questions about his health, just ask him.
Calgary Flames centre Sean Monahan will tell you he’s just fine.
“I feel good,” Monahan said. “Obviously I don’t think I played my best game, but we got the two points and I know I can be better, so that’s what I’m going to be. It was a quick start. As you guys know, I didn’t skate for a few games there and I think as the game went on I was feeling better, so Game 2 will be a big game for me.”
After Calgary clinched their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2009 with a 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings a week ago, Monahan didn't participate in an optional skate Friday and didn’t travel for the Flames’ season finale against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
A day off for the team Sunday was followed by a practice Monday that Monahan also didn’t participate in. He took a 10-minute skate at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday before playing over 20 minutes in his playoff debut in Wednesday's win to take a 1-0 series lead on the Canucks.
Monahan’s sporadic practice schedule and performance in the faceoff circle in the victory, winning just 25 percent of his draws, prompted questions about his health both heading into and following the game.
Questions Monahan quickly dismissed.
“I’ve heard a lot of things lately that were wrong with me, but I’m perfectly fine,” said Monahan, who’s 31 goals this season were a team-best for Calgary. “I was sick for a little bit there, but I’m good to go. I got a lot of texts before the game asking if my shoulder was ok and stuff like that, but I wasn’t really sure what they were talking about. A lot of people can speculate things, but I’m 100 percent.”
Monahan wasn’t the only one fielding texts about his health.
Coach Bob Hartley has been continually prompted about the status of his 20-year-old middleman.
“I’d like to clarify once and for all,” Hartley started. “We didn’t ask the BC Lions for Travis Lulay’s shoulder pads. Sean Monahan has no shoulder injuries. I’ve had so many texts and emails from fans from Calgary because they got this somewhere that Monahan has a shoulder injury. We had a plan with him. This kid has played 22, 23 minutes the last month of the season. We were making a push to make the playoffs and I felt that in many games, he was our best player. When you want to win the big games, your best players need to be on the ice.
“I sat with him and he wanted to keep playing, but I shut him down. I shut him down because we want to be in this for the long haul and obviously we’re going to need all of our injuries. Sean Monahan is not injured.”
FERLAND STEPPING UP
While Monahan has earned attention of late, so too has Michael Ferland -- for a completely different reason.
In his first ever playoff game, the 22-year-old set up David Jones’ game-tying goal and, after Kris Russell put the Flames ahead with 29.6 seconds remaining in regulation, Hartley tapped he, Jones and Matt Stajan to preserve the win.
It’s a coup for Ferland, who has 26 career NHL games under his belt.
“Bob has put me in some big situation and most of all he’s been really patient with me,” Ferland said. “He’s helped me in practice and I’ve done a lot of video. Confidence is one of the biggest things. Every game that goes on, I feel more confident out there and I feel better about my game.”
Split between the regular season and playoffs, Ferland has a goal and two assists in his past four games. He had just one goal and two assists in his first 23 NHL skates.
His play, and responsibility, has grown dramatically.
“Ferland, like many of our young players, he deserves to be there,” Hartley said. “I have full confidence in Ferland. I felt that he was like a tank out there last night. Great minutes, playing smart, playing hard, going at the net, making great defensive play. I have the utmost confidence in all my players.”
Though they walked out of Game 1 with a win, Hartley may still shuffle his lineup heading into Friday's game.
“Tomorrow afternoon we’re going to sit as a staff once again and we are going to re-evaluate every situation," he said. "Playoff hockey is tough, and after 82 regular season games we have many players with bumps and bruises so we are going to re-visit everything once we visit with our medical staff and come up with the best possible line up."
NOTES: Monahan wasn’t among those on the ice as the Flames held an optional practice Thursday at Father Bauer on the UBC campus. A total of two goaltenders, Karri Ramo and Jon Gillies, and 11 skaters participated. Among those that skated was captain Mark Giordano.