I managed to catch a large portion of the Flames intra squad game this afternoon. Here are some of my thoughts and obseervations in no discernable order:
– The speed and intensity for what was a largely meaningless scrimmage was up there. It was, for example, far more interesting than the NHL all-star game (but what isn’t right?). Nobody was taking a day off this afternoon and that included the vets.
– Kids and veterans were mixed liberally throughout both line-ups, but the matchups tended to follow what one would expect. For example, the trio of Stajan, Hagman and Bourque mostly faced off against Iginla, Jokinen and Tanguay.
– The format for the game was interesting. Each period was segmented between a long 5-on-5 portion to start, followed by alternating 2 minute PP’s for each team (about 5 each). Then a 6 minute 4-on-4 before the flood. The format allowed the coaches to see guys perform in their various roles.
– Regular readers of this space will be glad to know that Jokinen did indeed get some reps on the point during the PP.
– The "big three" spent some time in their own end during the ES segments, particularly when they were facing Bourque’s group, but managed to lead the entire afternoon in terms of scoring chances. Tanguay and Jokinen combined for the first goal of the game on the PP – a cross-ice pass by Tanguay through the box for a Jokinen one-timer that snuck under Karlsson’s arm. The second goal was a Tanguay pass to Jokinen during a 2-on-1. Tanguay tickled the twine himself when Adam Pardy mishandled the puck in the slot, leaving Tanguay all with poor Matt Keetley.
– Out of the goalies I witnessed, Karlsson was perhaps the most impressive. Though he allowed the Jokinen shot to sneak through him, he also made several eye-popping saves, including a glovehand snag on a Glencross SH break-away, a pad save on a Tanguay deke and another glovehand save on a rebound off the back boards. Very big guy with decent quickness.
– TJ Brodie was paired with Sarich during the ES portion and mostly played with Gio during the PP parts. He seemed a little more tentative as can be expected and struggled occassionally during board battles in his own end. He displayed patience and poise with the puck on his stick however.
– Mitch Wahl played mostly on an all-kids line. He was quiet, but stood out occassionally with his efficient game. Crisp, smart passes, good positional work, etc. I don’t think I saw him make a mistake.
– There was a play today that nicely sums up the difference between prospects and NHL players. The puck came to Bourque in the defensive end with Bryan Cameron in pursuit. Instead of skating away or dumping the puck out, Bourque resolutely leaned forward and put his shoulder down. Cameron bounced off him like he was a brick wall.
– Lots of active defenders, jumping into the rush and down low in the offensive zone. Bouwmeester was very active in particular and even spent a couple of PP shifts as a "forward".
– I didn’t notice Nemisz at all. In fact, I assumed he was sitting the game out until I finally read the name on the back of his jersey in the second period.
– Matt Pelech looked like he was in game shape. He’s a big dude and was active during board battles. He even made a nice little deke at the offensive blueline during an entry which was a pleasant surprise. He was mostly paired with Bouwmeester at ES.
– Old man Conroy also looked good to me. Still a capable skater, he was also sure with the puck on his stick. He didn’t get any reps on the PP, but was out there a lot with the PK unit.
– MIkael Backlund was visibly one of the better young players, although he was also played more than many of them. That said, he skated mostly with Raitis Ivanans during the ES segments, so it’s not like the coaches were giving it to him easy.
– Jokinen was his usual mix of impressive raw tools and annoying decision making. He still likes to take long, inefficient routes when rushing the puck up the ice and still occassionally loses it in bad positions. That said, he was party to creating several scoring chances in the offensive zone.
– Not sure what happened to Alex Tanguay last year, but he looked like the guy I remember from a couple of years ago. Smart positionally, good stick, slick passing, nice vision. He was probably the best guy on that line in my opinion.
– A lot of the decision makers were in attendance today. Ken King and Brent Sutter took the game in from the stands and I saw Jay Feaster walking through the concourse during an intermission.
That’s about from me. Anyone who attended show feel free to add their own thoughts in the comments.