The Calgary Flames headed up the road to Sylvan Lake, Alberta on Wednesday night to play the visiting
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes. While cynics would joke that the poor folks in Sylvan Lake lost their arena already, why should they be subjected to a Flames/Coyotes game (ha!), tonight’s contest actually was pretty damn entertaining.
After some overtime power-play heroics, the Flames skated home with a 4-3 win to improve their pre-season record to 2-1-0.
The Coyotes came out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period. Both goals victimized the Sheldon Brookbank and Patrick Sieloff duo. On the first, Joni Ortio made an initial save and kicked out a rebound. Sieloff swung wildly in an attempt to clear the puck, missed entirely, and Matt Kassian put it past Ortio. On the second, the D-men got caught out of position in the corners and Joe Vitale drove the net and put his own rebound past Ortio. However, the Flames did manage to come back, scoring late on a power-play off a shot by Deryk Engelland with a couple guys screening Mike McKenna to make it 2-1.
In the second, the Flames began to take over the game. Markus Granlund drove into the zone with a head of steam. The Coyotes defenders seemed mystified in terms of what to do, where to go and who to cover. Granlund used this momentary freedom to put a tape-to-tape pass on the stick of Brian McGrattan, who scored a “gimme” goal to draw even. Arizona came back, scoring for the third time on Ortio – none of them were his fault – as a puck lobbed towards the net bounced off a couple bodies (the last being B.J. Crombeen) and past Ortio. With it looking like the Flames would go back to the room trailing after 40, Sven Baertschi collected a puck off the neutral zone boards and went in and put a puck through the pads of McKenna – this one had juuuuust enough on it to squeak through – to tie the game at 3-3 with roughly 10 seconds to go in the period.
Doug Carr took over for Ortio in net for the third, and the Flames also held Morgan Klimchuk out of the game for the period due to an upper body injury. Brendan Burke came in for Arizona. They had a really fun end-to-end game, with Carr seeming quite poised for a guy getting his first NHL pre-season action in. The game went to a power-play in overtime and Calgary’s strategy appeared to involve dazzling the Coyotes defenders with point-area passes between Johnny Gaudreau, Raphael Diaz and Kris Russell. It worked, because they basically left Curtis Glencross alone to screen the goalie, and one tipped Russell point shot later, Hockeyville was capped off with an overtime win for the “home” side.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Arizona was opportunistic throughout the game – none of the three goals they got were because they beat the goalie, but rather because they capitalized on Flames mistakes. However, the Flames stuck to the game-plan and really took over the game for the last 45 minutes.
Overall, a strong effort for the locals, aside from a few defensive zone gaffes.
Brett Kulak. I neglected to praise him for Sunday night’s game, which is probably because I barely noticed him. That’s a good thing, so to make up for it I praise him here. Paired with Diaz at even-strength, Kulak looked every bit as NHL-ready as his partner. Granted, Kulak is definitely headed for Adirondack, no question, but he’s come a long way since being drafted in 2012 from the Vancouver Giants.
In terms of others who were strong: Johnny Gaudreau is getting more and more composed and poised as he plays, and he was buzzing around the offensive zone a ton. Markus Granlund created tons of chances. Sven Baertschi looked good, especially in terms of battling along the boards and not shying away from contact. Turner Elson was every bit the pest we’ve seen him be in the WHL, and played really well on the many Flames PKs.
In contrast, Sieloff and Brookbank were not good.
SUM IT UP
The boys are back at it tomorrow night, when they return to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome to host the Vancouver Canucks. It’s at 7pm MT, and it’s also on Sportsnet 360, but beware, it’s the Canucks broadcast team. It’s also on Sportsnet 960 the Fan.