Sean Monahan has been outstanding for the Calgary Flames so far, and put an stamp on it by setting up and scoring the game winning goal tonight against the New Jersey Devils. This was a surprisingly outstanding game that ended in a not-so surprising way: With Monahan scoring another big goal for the upstart Flames.
While he’s not quite leading all rookies in scoring, he’s arguably been the best youngster so far in the young season. He’s taken on way more responsibilities than the likes of Tomas Hertl and Nathan MacKinnon, and has been at the center of the surprising start for the Flames.
Take a look at the breakdown of his game-winning goal from tonight and you’ll understand why he’s been so effective in this early season. The black arrows illustrate where Monahan came from, and he’s the one under the blue star.
After losing a faceoff clean in the neutral zone, Monahan chases the puck down with haste. He’s the only forechecker in on this play, but forces the Devil to move the puck quicker than he would have liked.
Instead of being able to move the puck out of the zone, Monahan’s pressure forces the Devils to try to regroup behind the net. At this point, the Flames come in to support Monahan in an attempt to get a turnover. The pressure is on, and the situation doesn’t look dangerous…yet.
This is where Monahan more or less outsmarts everyone in a white sweater. This is where the sky-high hockey IQ kicks in. He realizes that his two teammates along the boards have won the battle for the puck, and peels off as it heads back to his defender. Notice where every single player out on the ice is looking. And then notice what Monahan is doing.
Now you see it coming. No one for New Jersey does, but what will happen is evident. In this instance, the yellow line is the pass from Calgary’s high defender to Sven Baertschi, who makes zero mistake with his pass. Again, look at where all of the Devils on the ice are looking, and look at what Monahan is doing. After forcing the the turnover in the first slide, pursuing the puck carrier in the second slide and recognizing the developing play in the third, he slides into position here.
Baertschi slips the puck through a bit of traffic and hits an open Monahan, who beats a sprawling Martin Brodeur. As you can see in each slide, Monahan was either forcing the play or ahead of it at every turn for Calgary’s late game winner tonight.
This kid is going to be a rock star, and with plays like this it’s easy to see why.