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'THE MAN'

Tkachuk's dominant play and penchant for dramatic goals impressing teammates and coach: "He makes plays, he's got good hands, and he's a brilliant hockey mind. He's a real smart player."

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

These aren't some flash-in-the-pan patterns of brilliance.

The 'wow!' moments are commonplace - an everyday part of Matthew Tkachuk's booming, theatrical toolkit now. 

"The skill he has," marvelled skipper and locker-room neighbour Mark Giordano, "is off the charts. 

"It's right up there with anyone in the league. 

"Everyone's talking about that goal he scored in Nashville, and rightfully so. But the little things he does, the plays he makes in tight and the battles he wins, he thinks the game differently than a lot of guys and has the hands to pull almost anything off."

His ingenuity knows no bounds. 

He thrives on the impossible and finds joy in the tactics.

Take, for example, his efforts igniting the comeback in Tuesday's overtime victory over the Arizona Coyotes. 

Dumped to the ice in the far corner, he maintained possession by dribbling the puck with his feet, fending off a defender and in the process retrieving his lost cue, scooping it up and feeding a pass to Johnny Gaudreau with the inch-wide knob on the opposite end.

Seconds later, and with his Warrior Alpha facing the proper direction this time, he raced to the front of the net and tipped home his first of the night, cutting the deficit and setting the table for another dramatic OT finisher. 

Innovation on full display. 

 

Video: "They're young and fast"

 

"That sequence really sums up the kind of player he is and what he means to our team," Giordano said. "Plays like that, especially on the powerplay, 6-on-5's - situations where you can retrieve the puck, keep it alive and make a play to the net. Chucky's right up there with the best of 'em.
 
"There aren't a lot of those guys who, in the moment, want to be The Man and can actually come through and pull it off time after time, but he does. 

"And those players tend to be the top players in the league for a reason."

He's definitely in the conversation now. 

"If you can be that kind of player and have some skill to go along with it, to make plays and to score goals, that's what you want to be known as," said Tkachuk, who's quick to deflect praise and credit the work of his linemates. 

Pressed to boast and revel a bit in his recent string of success, he admits there's a different level of comfort and confidence in his game this year. 

"You try to be a difference maker on every shift you're out there," he said. "You've got to try and do something to make a positive impact for your team."

That, he does. 

With his two-goal, three-point showing on Tuesday, Tkachuk enters tonight's contest against the New Jersey Devils gunning at a point-per-game clip in 18 games (9G, 9A).

He now has the most points among any player, EVER, in franchise history before his 22nd birthday with 192, passing Dan Quinn for the all-time lead. 

And he still has another 34 days to pad the new record, and even - potentially - hit the 200-career point milestone before breaking out the party hats. 

Having now scored 16 career multi-point games, Tkachuk is tied with Jack Eichel for the fifth most multi-goal games by a U.S.-born player before turning 22-years-old. He trails Jimmy Carson (31), Bob Carpenter (23), Jeremy Roenick (20), and Auston Matthews (20).

Pretty good company. 

 

Video: "Good opportunity in front of us tonight"

 

"He's been clutch. He's been unreal," said coach Bill Peters. "He's played real well. He's a guy who I thought in Nashville when we weren't playing great, drug us into the battle. He scores big goals, has his whole career, and continues to do that at the NHL level."

With five goals and eight points in his last four games, Tkachuk has elevated himself into a new stratum. 

He remains the belligerent, hard-hitting thorn in the side of his opponents, but is also showing the grace, the hands, and the ability to be a "difference-maker" in every situation imaginable. 

Offensively, defensively, and in the dressing room. 

A throwback, of sorts, with a modern footprint his teammates can't get enough of.

"Everyone talks about how he's the heartbeat and how he plays, and everyone loves and respects that, because you don't see it every day in the National Hockey League," said Peters. "But he's got a little old-school in him - a little grease. 

"It's a wonderful thing.

"He makes plays, he's got good hands, and he's a brilliant hockey mind. He's a real smart player. 

"Real smart."

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