This time a year ago, the Calgary Flames were all set to head into the Christmas break on an eight-game losing streak that was about to become nine. The Flames were down 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings, and considering how things had been going for them throughout December of 2014, there was no way they were going to come back.
Except then Johnny Gaudreau scored a natural hat trick, the very first of his career.
Those were just three of the 99 points he has accumulated so far. That’s right: sitting at 37 goals and 62 assists, Johnny’s next point will be the 100th of his career. He will almost certainly be the 11th player of his draft class to meet the mark (unless Dougie Hamilton somehow scores five points before Gaudreau scores one – he’s next in line).
Gaudreau has 99 career points over 114 games played. Let’s take a look back on some of the best ones.
The 2013-14 season was terrible. It saw a team in the throes of its first year of a rebuild, closing out a painful season with more hope for the lottery than anything else. The final game of the year was no exception, except for one (or, rather, two): Bill Arnold and his winger were just signed to NHL contracts, and playing in their first NHL games.
Down 4-0 in the second and certain to close out the year with another loss, this happened:
And so it began. The kid wearing #53 had his first goal on the board.
Five games into the 2014-15 season, Gaudreau’s rookie year, he was without a single point. People had no problems whatsoever vocalizing their doubts about this kid. He was too small to play in the NHL. He was an overhyped, arrogant (because “Johnny Hockey” was totally his idea) midget that could not handle, would never be able to handle professional competition.
So what if he’d excelled at every single level before, heads and shoulders above the rest of his peers? These were the big leagues.
Six games into the 2014-15 season, he was a healthy scratch.
(The goal is hilarious in hindsight: a power play goal from Johnny Gaudreau assisted by Joe Colborne and Mason Raymond. Oh, how far we’ve supposedly come.)
After that, the floodgates were officially open, as Gaudreau went on a scoring spree and never looked back. The doubters were silenced once and for all.
The Flames were down 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. Then they tied it, 3-3, but not even a minute after tying it, the Panthers retook the lead.
So Calgary went into the third period down 4-3. Lines were shuffled. Gaudreau ended up on Sean Monahan’s wing, and in the 12th point of his career, the two tied the game – and combined for their first-ever even strength goal. The Flames ended up winning the game 6-4, with Monahan assisting on Gaudreau’s empty netter to seal the deal. It was the first three-point game of his career.
Gaudreau and Monahan wouldn’t become regular linemates for a few months yet, but that game was the first glimpse into something special.
#26, #27, #28
You all know what this is, so just sit back and enjoy how Johnny Gaudreau saved Christmas.
Okay, so Gaudreau couldn’t get two hat tricks two games in a row, but two goals in 16 seconds is still pretty decent. He helped the Flames jump out to a 3-0 lead early on, and they defeated the Oilers 4-1.
It wasn’t the most amazing play ever, but it was Gaudreau’s first ever point in overtime.
Of course, now that overtime is three-on-three, Gaudreau has been crushing it on a more regular and awe-inspiring basis. But we all have to start somewhere, and the Dennis Wideman goal everyone first ignored was where he began.
The line of Gaudreau – Monahan – Hudler would soon go on to tear up the NHL towards the end of the 2014-15 season. This was the first goal all three combined on, and you can really see why they ended up dominating so hard: that was some mighty fine passing.
Gaudreau had a decent little tally against the Ducks to the game at two earlier in this game – and score his 50th career point – but his second goal of the game in the Flames’ 6-3 win, and point #51, was truly a thing of beauty.
All the Flames needed was a win.
Just one win, and they would be back in the playoffs. It would be Johnny Gaudreau’s first-ever playoffs, but then again, it was his first-ever season. After a rough start, he helped lead the Flames down the stretch, scoring goals and putting points up left and right and making his team competitive again, once again giving opponents a player on the Flames they absolutely could not, under any circumstances, give time and space (although he found it quite frequently regardless).
So it was only fitting he opened the scoring.
And that he helped in the empty netter to ensure the Flames’ 3-1 win, and trip back to the post-season. His first ever.
Three-on-three overtime, thy name is Johnny Gaudreau.
That was only a little over two months ago, and we still had no idea what we were in for. The Flames have the best player in all of three-on-three hockey, and that was only the beginning.
That and, well, it was the capper on another three-point night – the fifth of his career – and the start of his establishing that, really, no other forward on this team could possibly compare to him.
#88, #89, #90, #91
Can you say four-point game? Johnny Gaudreau can, now. In the Flames’ 5-4 victory over the Boston Bruins, he was in on four of the Flames’ five goals, including scoring three of them himself for his second career hat trick. The one goal he didn’t get a point on – the game-tying goal – he was still crucial in its going in, having kept the puck in the zone mere seconds before time was set to expire.
If Gaudreau’s first hat trick was a statement game, then this one was, like, next level.
What’s more of a statement than a hat trick coming in overtime?
It could come tonight. It could come after Christmas. But you can be sure it’s coming, and knowing Johnny Gaudreau, there’s a really good chance it’s going to be beautiful.
And there are probably still going to be at least a couple hundred more to come. Here’s to the first.