This is the first year in a bit we at Matchsticks and Gasoline have been able to provide recaps of all 82 regular season games. One of the other things we started doing this year was choosing a "Flame of the Game" for each game. No matter how amazing or how awful Calgary was, someone usually stood out in a positive way throughout all 82 games.
With the regular season over, here's a look at who we valued most on a game-by-game basis. The Flame of the Game was often left up to the recapper; however, in circumstances without one, I filled in and chose someone myself.
Drum roll, please:
Johnny Gaudreau leads the charge with 15 selections, nearly a fifth of the team's games. Sean Monahan isn't far behind him at 11. This isn't surprising: both put up outstanding numbers, especially when you consider they're just a couple of kids, not to mention that whole thing where Gaudreau was "too small" to make the NHL and yet ended up being one of its most entertaining players to watch throughout the season.
After those two, there's a lot of goalie love with Karri Ramo at nine and Jonas Hiller at five. Joni Ortio only had six starts, and he earned himself two selections with stellar games against the Vancouver Canucks (shutout!) and Los Angeles Kings.
TJ Brodie, a big minutes player and excellent supporting number two who looks to be developing into a number one, got a lot of love as well, with seven selections. His partner, Mark Giordano, trailed him at six, and that was while missing a quarter of the season. He almost certainly would have had more had he stayed healthy. Brodie might have, as well.
Lance Bouma received a lot of cult love from across the fanbase this year, and we included ourselves in that group, naming him the Flame of the Game five times. Someone like Paul Byron surprised, being named three times early on, including for the Flames' very first game.
Michael Ferland's really, really strong performance to end the season and even usurp some NHL veterans didn't go unnoticed. He only played 26 games, and didn't average many minutes, but he really turned it on towards the end, and we're experiencing a lot of love for him right now.
Jiri Hudler only getting three selections and Mikael Backlund only two is pretty surprising, especially considering how Hudler is one of the NHL's top scorers and Backlund has long been an amazing defensive centre for the Flames. While Brodie got a lot of love for his sublime play, that didn't seem to extend to anyone else nearly as much.
It's a smattering of random players after that. Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman played in circumstances not best suited for them most of the season, hence their single selections, rather than being chosen a lot more. Josh Jooris got some love as the Flames' surprise rookie of the season with two, while Joe Colborne, a sophomore, was shown about that much appreciation as well. Curtis Glencross got a nod before he left us. Rafa Diaz, David Jones, and Mason Raymond were standouts once each, and of course, who could forget that time Deryk Engelland scored two goals in one game?
What's my ultimate takeaway from this? Holy hell, have the Flames got two incredible stars in the making in Gaudreau and Monahan, and an excellent top defence pairing (when healthy) in Brodie and Giordano. Top end players are already in Calgary, and only one of them was a high draft pick. The rest are on their way.
Oh, and having good goaltending again has been nice.