Gaudreau needs to find offensive touch

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Having a player on your team produce enough to be a on 65-point pace is nothing to scoff at most of the time. But for Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames, those are disappointing numbers. Can he turn this season around before it’s too late? He almost doesn’t have a choice.

The 26-year-old posted a career-high 36 goals and 99 points in 82 games last season. The Flames were heavy favorites heading into their first-round series against Colorado, but they ended up getting bounced in the first round. That playoff exit isn’t all on Gaudreau’s shoulders, but his one assist in five games certainly didn’t help make matters easier.

You have to wonder whether or not that underwhelming playoff performance has impact his game this season.

He’s heading into tonight’s game against the Kings with three assists in his last two games, but he’s scored just once in his last 10 outings.

If he scores the 20 goals he’s currently on pace for, that would be his second-lowest total since he made the leap to the NHL (he found the back of the net 18 times in 2016-17, but he missed 10 games that season).

As you’d imagine, his numbers are down across the board from last season. According to Natural Stat Trick, his CF% has gone from 54.49 percent to 50.31, his GF% went from 56.15 percent to 45.59 percent, his XGF% is down from 54.16 percent to 48.83 percent and his high-danger chances went from 53.8 percent to 46.24 percent.

Getting their star forward back on track will be key. The Flames are sitting in third in the Pacific Division with 64 points in 57 games this season. Their spot is far from secure though, as the Golden Knights and Coyotes, who are both in Wild Card spots, are tied with them. The Winnipeg Jets are one point behind the Flames.

The fact that they’re in a playoff spot with Gaudreau producing the way he has is impressive. Calgary’s a deep team and they’ve been in able to spread out their scoring pretty evenly. They have four players with more than 40 points (Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Gaudreau). They also have six players with double digit goals (Tkachuk, Lindholm, Monahan, Gaudreau, Mangiapane and Derek Ryan).

For them to secure a postseason berth they’ll need their elite offensive players to be…well…elite. They might be able to sneak in with these players producing below expectations, but they need Gaudreau to turn things around if they’re going to do some damage come April.

Alex Faust will call the action from STAPLES Center alongside analyst Brian Hayward. Liam McHugh hosts the night’s studio coverage alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp, and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

With Alex Ovechkin just two goals shy of reaching 700 goals for his NHL career, NBC Sports has flexed into its second Capitals game this week, adding Washington’s game against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo, on Thursday night.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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