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Elias Lindholm has been racking up points since the National Hockey League’s all-star break and, really, all season.
But he’s not satisfied.
“I think I can play better,” the 25-year-old Calgary Flames forward said Saturday morning, before the team squared off with the Chicago Blackhawks later on Hockey Night in Canada ’s late game.
The internal bar has been set high. Clearly.
But since he’s been in this city, coming over in that well-publicized trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, he’s done nothing but produce. Lindholm has been consistent upon his arrival, and, this season, he’s been Calgary’s best player on a nightly basis.
Effective at centre. Effective at right wing. Effective on the penalty kill. Effective on the power play. Effective in all three zones.
Lindholm has done everything the Flames have asked of him and more, and still he’s not satisfied.
“I want to shoot a little bit more and have more chances in the slot,” Lindholm said. “Right now, I’m getting shots right in front and around the net, but if I could create more chances in the slot, it would be even better.”
OK, but if you put aside Lindholm’s lofty standards and analyze his current output, there’s lots to like. And plenty to be satisfied about.
He scored two more goals on Saturday to extend his point-streak to 10 games.
In 60 clashes, his 27 goals is a team-high and equals his own career-best 27, set last season in his first year with the Flames.
And while the Flames have some re-discovered secondary scoring as of late (11 different players hit the scoresheet during their four-game road trip through the NHL’s Pacific Division), Lindholm has continued to find the back of the net.
“It’s not really surprising,” said Flames head coach Geoff Ward of his prolific season so far. “He’s a confident player. I think he’s adapted to what the expectations of his role is — I think he’s comfortable with it. His production hasn’t suffered with what he does away from the puck. I think he’s married those two parts of his game really well.”
And it’s shown, too, in the production of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, giving them more flexibility to move with the puck ever since Ward reassembled them as a line a week ago against the Vancouver Canucks.
Ward has compared Lindholm before to Boston Bruins star Patrice Bergeron, who is able to elevate the supporting cast around him.
He’s done exactly that for Monahan and Gaudreau (Saturday’s result aside, of course).
“In that regard, it’s really good,” Ward said. “Again, we just see how versatile and effective he is. The one sign of good players is he makes players he plays with better. Whoever Lindy plays with, the other players he plays around with are better players.”
There’s also a level of predictability with Lindholm’s game.
The native of Boden, Sweden, has proven he is interchangeable between the wing and at pivot, giving the Flames flexibility as they march towards the 2020 post-season.
“He does everything for you,” Ward said. “He’s a 200-foot player. He’s got versatility. He can play centre. He can play the wall. He plays both special teams. He can play in all situations and play them effectively. For us, he’s real valuable, and you know what you’re getting from him. When he goes on the ice, he’s reliable.
“You’re getting the same thing from him every night.”
While he admitted it took him a while to get used to being on the wing again, it hasn’t been visible to the average onlooker.
Lindholm’s production has been the same, too.
Riding a 10-game point spree, he’s found the scoresheet every outing since the Flames lost to the St. Louis Blues in a shootout on Jan. 28.
And as for his goals, they might not have all been Picassos.
But they’ve all counted.
“The last five goals there have not been very pretty, but they’re going in,” Lindholm said prior to Saturday’s effort. “It’s obviously nice when they go in and you play a little bit with your shoulders down and don’t have to force it too much … Probably 85 or 80% of my goals I’ve scored right in front. If you want to score goals, you better get there.
“I try to be there around as much as possible.”
He isn’t done yet, either.
Lindholm is on a mission to get to 30 for the first time in his seven-year NHL career that has seen him play in 515 games.
That was the plan last year, but he — like the team — stumbled down the stretch.
“I kind of wanted 30 last year, but the way it went, I was struggling a little bit towards the end of the year,” Lindholm said. “This year, I’m getting closer, and 30 has always been a goal. I just try to take it day by day and not trying to force anything. If you start looking towards numbers, you might start struggling a little bit. I just try to take it day by day — and if they go in, they go in.”
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