The Calgary Flames iced one of the best top lines in hockey this season.

But -- funny story -- they were just a backup plan.

If it weren't for a plethora of preseason injuries, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk wouldn't have started as the Flames' first line. The entire complexion of Calgary's offense -- heck, of the Flames' whole season -- might have unfolded differently.

And what a season the Flames would have missed. Calgary was among the NHL's elite teams, going 50-21-11 to win the Pacific Division for only the second time since 2005-06. That set the Flames up for a first-round playoff series against Dallas, which is currently tied 1-1 heading into Saturday night's Game 3.

Calgary's success wasn't all because of its first unit, of course. But some things are just meant to be. The Lindholm line had briefly spent time together at the end of last season; it was clear even then how good they could be. But it wasn't until coach Darryl Sutter's options were more limited that he reunited the trio, and they took the NHL by storm.

"We knew pretty much right away it was a good line," Lindholm told ESPN recently. "Those couple of games last season felt pretty good. When we started off this year, we had some good chemistry right away, and then we've been rolling ever since. Honestly for me, it's playing with two world-class skill players and that's pretty fun. I don't have the same skill as they do, but I try to be contributing with other things and try to give them the puck as much as possible and they will do their magic."

That's the crux of what makes these three so special, an ability to complement, elevate and celebrate each other's unique talent as it fits into the group dynamic. The late Steve Jobs said the best teammates polish one another like stones. No wonder Calgary's big three have been so bright.

In Lindholm, their line has a capable conductor leading with authority and exemplary two-way play. Tkachuk is the drumbeat, unrelenting in his puck pursuits and finishing prowess to match. And Gaudreau has emerged as virtuoso, so quick on his feet and masterful at creating -- and capitalizing on -- scoring chances.

It just works. Because for all their differences, these linemates see the game alike. And that's what Tkachuk defines as true chemistry.