In a season where seemingly nothing has gone right for the Calgary Flames, the month of April may take the cake for the most frustrating of the season. With the thought of playoffs seeming impossible in March, the Montreal Canadiens went on a terrible stretch that resulted in the Flames creeping back into the race.
Unfortunately, a loss to the Canadiens on April 26 has once again made the playoffs seem highly unlikely, as the Flames now trail them for the fourth spot in the Scotia North Division by eight points with just six games remaining. While the month was very disappointing given the playoff circumstances, they actually had solid performances from a number of individuals throughout April. Here were their top three performers.
3. Chris Tanev
One of the few bright spots for the Flames this season has been the play of Chris Tanev. The 31-year-old has been fantastic during his first season in Calgary, and looks worth every bit of the four-year, $18 million deal he signed as a free agent this past offseason. While his offensive numbers are nothing to marvel over, he has been consistent all season long, and that continued through April.
Not only has Tanev been a great addition at both even strength and the penalty kill, but he also really helped elevate the play of Noah Hanifin. Before going down with a season-ending injury a week ago, Hanifin was easily having his best season in Calgary since being acquired in a trade during the 2018 offseason. Speaking of injuries, the one concern with Tanev heading into this season was his ability to stay healthy. Thankfully, that hasn’t been an issue at all, as he has appeared in all 49 of the Flames’ games this season.
2. Mark Giordano
Unlike Tanev, the 2020-21 season hasn’t been great for Flames captain Mark Giordano. The 37-year-old appeared to be on the decline through the first three months of the season, but was able to put together a very strong April. In their 12 games this past month, he had two goals and seven points while posting an extremely impressive plus/minus of plus-7. This marked the first month of the season that he wasn’t a minus player, and he did so while averaging over 24 minutes a game.
It isn’t much of a coincidence that his best month of the season came when he was often paired with Tanev, but Giordano still deserves plenty of credit. While he is no longer a Norris Trophy-caliber player, he is still very valuable and is an incredible talent for his age. It will be very interesting to see what management does with him for the upcoming expansion draft.
1. Elias Lindholm
While multiple forwards for the Flames were able to up their stats in April, there is no doubt that the best of the bunch was Elias Lindholm. The 26-year-old, who has been their most consistent forward all season long, had a very strong month with eight goals and 12 points in 12 games. He is leading this team in scoring this season with 43 points in 49 contests.
Lindholm has continued to remain one of the league’s most underrated players, which is extremely unfortunate given the major coverage Canadian teams are getting this season due to the division realignments. If his team had been more competitive this year, he may have finally started to get the recognition he deserves. While this team may need to make a major shakeup to its core this offseason, he should be one of the players they keep around.
Too Little Too Late
Though the Flames’ record of just 6-5 in April doesn’t seem overly impressive, they truly looked better than they have for the majority of the season, with the three above leading the way. Unfortunately, it looks like they came to life too late as they would need an absolute miracle to get into the playoffs. Still, the slightly improved play was nice to see, and hopefully it can help them build some confidence and be ready to go for the 2021-22 season.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.