Every night coming here, it’s always fun playing in front of our fans. They do a really good job helping us come back in games with their enthusiasm. It’s always exciting playing here. - Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY, AB -- Johnny Gaudreau was centimetres away from extending his point streak at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.
Dancing around Logan Couture along the blueline and then faking a shot and deking around Brenden Dillon in the slot, he set up his linemate Sean Monahan perfectly and the pivot wasted no time in depositing in the net.
Alas, a coach's challenge issued by San Jose Sharks bench boss Peter Deboer led to the goal being called back as Monahan was just off-side entering the zone.
With that sequence of events, Gaudreau's point streak in his own barn was halted at nine games. Still, in last night's 4-2 victory over the Sharks, the 22-year-old registered three shots, three additional shot attempts, two takeaways, and 22:01 of ice time -- an all-around solid performance by the left winger in his first pointless game at the Saddledome since Oct. 17 when he was blanked against the Edmonton Oilers.
Gaudreau has been held pointless in just two of the 13 games he has played in Calgary and has had five multi-point outings at the Saddledome this season.
Needless to say, he relishes playing on home ice.
"I feel really comfortable in this arena. It’s fun playing in front of our fans," he said. "I remember how exciting it was in the playoffs and I remember my first game in the ‘Dome, it was exciting for me.
"Every night coming here, it’s always fun playing in front of our fans. They do a really good job helping us come back in games with their enthusiasm. It’s always exciting playing here."
Gaudreau, who leads the Flames with 26 points in 27 appearances this year, has shown zero signs of going through a sophomore slump, which is no surprise to his head coach Bob Hartley.
"Johnny is such student of the game that he knows the game, knows the league even better. He knows opposing goalies, opposing bluelines, opposing forwards. He’s growing. I think that he’s matured a lot, not to say that he was immature by any means. The first year is behind him and he knows what to expect going to every rink and playing every opponent. He’s getting used to it and he loves it.
"Johnny’s skills amaze me every day, but his competitiveness is even better."
While Gaudreau's dominant skill set is apparent in regulation play, the spotlight on his talent gets much larger in three-on-three overtime.
The Flames have thrived in extra time this season and Gaudreau is one of the main reasons why they have dropped just two of their seven games that have gone past regulation time. And Gaudreau has three goals and five points in overtime.
"I have a blast out there," Gaudreau grinned. "The time and space, you have to be smart with the puck, manage the puck well, and try to hold onto it as long as possible. Sometimes you can’t take shots and you’ve got to hold onto it, make changes at the right time, it’s all strategy. I think our team is really good at that."
But offence isn't the only thing the Boston College alumnus has to offer.
One of the biggest areas of improvement in his game has come in the defensive zone. Gaudreau has been able to tighten up defensively without sacrificing offence. His backchecking and ability to read plays in his own zone have improved so rapidly since the beginning of his NHL career, the coaching staff have no issues in placing him out in crucial moments of tight games.
"You look at him in the zone, in the last minute of the game protecting a one-goal lead, I have no fear. More than that, I have confidence putting him out there because if he needs to get the puck out, he will," Hartley stated. "He’ll win a battle even though he’s a small sized player. He’ll find a way to win. He wants to win.
"He’s not a cookie monster. He does it for the team. He wants to contribute offensively and defensively and he does it the right way."