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Why the Flames will win the Stanley Cup

by Evan Sporer

The Calgary Flames are not supposed to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They weren't supposed to contend in the season after picking fourth in the 2014 NHL Draft. They weren't supposed to get enough offense from their top forward line of 20-year-old Sean Monahan, rookie Johnny Gaudreau, and veteran Jiri Hudler.

The Flames weren't supposed to stay in the playoff race when they lost captain Mark Giordano, their best defenseman, to injury. When Giordano sustained a biceps injury on Feb. 25, the Flames were not in a playoff position.

Calgary hasn't let everything it wasn't supposed to do stop it from making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so why stop now? The Flames will parlay riding the momentum of playing a quarter of the season fighting for a spot in the playoffs into winning the Stanley Cup.

The Flames already have proven they can win a big game. The night they clinched a berth in the postseason was also the night they ended the playoff hopes of the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

Calgary has a Calder Trophy candidate, Gaudreau. The rookie from Boston College jumped right into his first season and been a contributor offensively, sharing the rookie scoring lead with 64 points.

Monahan is having an offensive season rarely achieved. He joined an elite list of centers who have scored 30 goals and recorded 30 assists as a 20-year-old. Other recent players to join that club include Evander Kane, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron.

Even without Giordano, who would have had a shot at the Norris and Hart trophies had he stayed healthy, Calgary has other pieces on its blue line. TJ Brodie, often overlooked because of Giordano, had a Norris-caliber season himself and played major minutes with Giordano out of the lineup. He'll continue to play nearly half of each game in the playoffs and match up against top forwards.

Defenseman Dennis Weidman has playoff experience with the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. He's part of a group of defensemen, along with Kris Russell, that makes up a high-scoring blue line.

When things get tight in the playoffs, and when many games are decided in the third period, Calgary will feel right at home. No team scored more third-period and overtime goals than Calgary (108), and the Flames have the third-most wins (10) when trailing after two periods. The 14 games Calgary has managed to get at least a point in when trailing after two periods are tied for the most in the League with the Detroit Red Wings.

Though the Flames haven't made the playoffs since 2009, Calgary has a goaltender with playoff experience, Jonas Hiller, and a coach who has won a Stanley Cup in Bob Hartley. Hiller started 22 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks, helping them reach the Western Conference semifinals in 2009.

Hartley was the coach of the Colorado Avalanche when they won the Cup in 2001. He's coached five teams into the playoffs, four times making it to at least the conference final.

Calgary has been playing the role of underdog for much of the season, and will continue to feed off that mentality and the energy is provides when the playoffs begin.


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