Post-Game: Hiller Stands Tall

(NOTE: Getty doesn’t have any Flames photos of Hiller yet; let’s all pretend that they do, ‘kay?)

Heading into the 2014-15 campaign, I didn’t know a heck of a lot about Jonas Hiller.

I knew he was Swiss. I knew he usually had sweet pads and a cool mask. But I didn’t know much about his style. Turns out he’s a pretty effective positional netminder who doesn’t make a lot of big flashy saves, but also doesn’t make a lot of big flashy mistakes. He was the difference-maker in Calgary’s 2-0 pre-season victory at home this evening.

THE RUNDOWN

The theme of the first period was special teams. The Flames began the period with a penalty kill off of a lazy penalty in the neutral zone from Brandon Bollig. Afterwards, the Flames received three successive power-play opportunities – two of them from Jesse Winchester. Winchester hooked Brett Kulak and went off, and tripped Dennis Wideman on his way from the penalty box to the Avs bench for another penalty. The Flames couldn’t score on any of the man advantages, although they had a really good sequence of offensive pressure on the first delayed penalty, which ended when Johnny Gaudreau’s stick snapped on an attempted slap-pass from T.J. Brodie. The period ended with no goals scored, though the Flames carried most of the play and led in shots (11-7) and shot attempts (19-12). They just couldn’t establish zone control on their power-plays, which really limited how much they could press their advantage.

The pace of play was much more stilted in the middle frame, in two ways. First, there weren’t any man advantages, so a lot of the game was played in the neutral zone. Second, the Flames had a lot of really wonky stretch pass attempts, many of which ended in off-sides or icings. Broken plays were the name of the game. Thankfully for the locals, a broken play in the neutral zone turned into a nice little goal. Curtis Glencross fished a puck out of the side-boards between the benches. Johnny Gaudreau retrieved the puck, entered the Colorado zone, deked past a defender and wristed the puck top-corner to score his first goal of the pre-season (and first goal in Calgary). Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler almost combined to extend the lead to 2-0 later in the period, but Reto Berra stopped Monahan’s one-timer attempt. Shots were even at 9-9 in the second period, with the Flames holding a slight 16-13 shot attempt advantage.

The third period was a bit more chaotic, with the Avalanche really pressing to get the game even and the Flames doing their darnedest to keep them to the outside. Jonas Hiller was the star of the period, calming things down at best and kicking rebounds into the corners at worst. The Avalanche out-shot Calgary in the final frame 12-4 and edged them in shot attempts by a 23-9 margin. The Flames, however, kept things at 1-0 until Lance Bouma carried a loose puck out of the Flames zone, hit the center ice line and, looking at a yawning cage (Berra had been relieved in favour of the extra man) calmly tossed it in to make it 2-0.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Calgary out-played Colorado’s B-team and then was able to hold on to their victory in the third. The Gaudreau-Colborne-Glencross line soundly out-played their opposition, but couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat for much of the game. It’s pre-season, but you hate to see anybody that unlucky this early on.

But Gaudreau managed to spin straw into gold, scoring-chance wise, and Jonas Hiller was able to bar the door.

RED WARRIOR

Hiller made 28 saves and was calm, cool and collected even in the third period when things became chaos in his own zone. He was very good.

Honourable mentions to Lance Bouma – who led the game with 7 hits – and Johnny Gaudreau – who led the Flames with 5 shots. They coincidentally were also the game’s goal-scorers.

SUM IT UP

The Flames continue practicing this week and likely trim down their bodies a bit later this week. They’re back in action on Thursday evening when the Winnipeg Jets’ come to town for the final pre-season home date of this year.

    • beloch

      Berra turned in a couple of remarkable performances for the Flames last season, but a lot of stinkers too. He’s wildly inconsistent. He had a short-side hole (bizarre for a NHL goalie) that other teams learned to exploit mercilessly. He tended to get caught out of position rather often and wasn’t very good at playing the puck. He also seemed to have problems concentrating when he wasn’t getting enough action. i.e. If the action was in the other end for a while, he seemed more likely to make a bad mistake once it returned to his end. His rebound control wasn’t very good either.

      On the other hand, Berra is big and had phenomenal lateral speed and reflexes. I can certainly see why the Flames brought him over the pond. He clearly had some great tools but just hadn’t quite put together a full NHL package. With more time to learn the NHL game and better mental preparation Berra could be good. Maybe not starter-good, but quite possibly a solid backup. He’s a project. Colorado might still get their money’s worth out of the trade with Calgary. However, I admit the odds are somewhat against it. A 2nd rounder for a 27 year-old project goalie is a freakin’ sweet trade!

  • prendrefeu

    Berra wasn’t terrible in Calgary, he was just out of position too often and couldn’t control his rebounds. In the games he played he absolutely shined when he was bombarded with shots, but in games where the shots were less frequent he was caught off guard.

    He’s now in Denver, being coached by arguably one of the best netminders of all time (one of the best…easily top 10) in Roy. Does anyone seriously doubt that Berra will improve under Roy’s eyes?

    Berra is good and could pretty great, let’s be honest here. He just didn’t do well in a Flames jersey. It happens, no bad feelings.

    Moving on…

  • RKD

    Johnny Hockey’s move on that goal was sick, this guy has smooth silky hands and brings an elite level of skill the Flames so badly need. He’s a shifty guy but he seems to play with confidence. If Berra wasn’t on his game tonight the Flames could have been up by 3 or 4 goals. Nice to see Hiller get the shutout.

      • CDB

        Pains me to say this, but gotta agree with WW. That looks to be a pretty bad 2nd round pick at this point. Could change, but I didn’t hear one positive thing from prospect tourny to main camp about it. Great job getting a 2nd rounder, awful utilization of the pick

        • JMK

          It’s a risky pick but ya can’t say it’s an awful pick so early?? Milan Lucic put up terrible numbers his draft year and got drafted in the second round, and look how that turned out. Not saying Smith is the next Lucic but it’s a bit early to disregard him. What percentage of late second rounders ever make it to 100 NHL games? Think most picks at drafts are risky, they took a gamble on big guy with the advantage of being a right handed shooter. I’m critical of Smith myself, being a project is an understatement but expecting the guy to step up straight away is asking a lot. Look at some of the players that are pushing to get onto NHL team this year for Flames. Jooris 24, Granlund 21, Arnold 22, Ferland 22, Reinhart 22, Bartschi 21. Smith is 19, if he is still not making an impact in 2 or 3 years fair enough comment, but I think ya should let the guy develop before ya say he’s an awful pick.

          • CDB

            I don’t mean to rip on the guy. But history tells us guys that are that much bigger than the competition, don’t skate well, and still don’t put up good numbers are extremely unlikely to amount to anything. You don’t need to spend 2nd rounders when there are far better players and bets to make available.

            I never expected him to push for a spot like the guys you listed there, and it is premature to right it off as an awful pick, but from all accounts I have heard, he looked pretty bad. There were a lot better options than that pick. Maybe it turns out to be a homerun, but it’s extremely unlikely, even compared to other late second round picks. Lucic is 6’4, you won’t find a forward the size of Smith who is an actual hockey player (ignoring John Scott types).

            Premature to right him off, but it’s an extremely low likelihood bet. Hope I’m wrong

          • JMK

            Fair enough, think I read somewhere that 25% of 2nd round picks play more than 200 NHL games, so as a late rounder it’s probably even less. If you have a, lets say, 1 in 5 chance of getting a solid NHL player, why not go for a high risk, high reward pick every now and again? If Smith works out it will be a big reward excuse the pun, even if he’s 23 before he breaks into the NHL. I don’t know much about the rest of the draft (bar Calgary picks) but was there a lot more solid options left at that stage in the draft?? Ya it’s a good point on guys taller than 6′ 6″ rarely make the NHL but you’ll never get one if you don’t at least try. Just went through all NHL panels based on eliteprosepects and there were only 15 players at or above 198cm tall (Smith = 199cm), and I didn’t even look to see if these were established players to be honest, so fair point. Still don’t abandon all hope yet thogh. 3 games into the OHL season he’s scoring a point per game pace, if he maintains that ya never know?

          • JMK

            And you have to remember the Flames already have a lot of good small forward prospects coming through the system, but very few bigger ones (Ferland isn’t even that big). Maybe they saw this as a risk worth taking in that regard. I was hoping for more D picks to be honest but sure ya never know Hickey or Matsson may turn out good.

        • SavardianSpinorama

          It is too early to judge Hunter Smith. Kids his size often take awhile for their coordination to catch up to their bodies.

          Secondly, Sam Cosentino thought enough of Hunter Smith’s raw ability to rank him 23rd in this year’s draft, so an argument can be made the Flames didn’t really go off the board drafting him late in the second round.

          Perhaps Smith will never pan out. Perhaps Reto Berra won’t, either.

          I’d rather have a 6’7″ prospect who’s starting to show he’s capable of putting up some points at the junior level than an erratic goalie (who the Flames wouldn’t have re-signed, anyway).

          There seems to be an awful lot of scouts in here still looking for a job at the NHL level.

          • CDB

            I love getting a second rounder for Berra. I don’t like the pick they made with the 2nd rounder.

            And when you say 6’7 forwards take awhile to grow into their bodies, which NHL forward are you referring to? Steve Macintyre? John Scott? I can’t find any others.

            Cosentino hypothesized the Avs going way off the board and taking Smith at 23rd. He wasn’t rating him 23rd.

            Funny NHL scout comment. Think I am entitled to my opinion of a player, just as you are in your expertise in the coordination levels of large adolescents.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            I agree you are entitled to your opinion, that’s why we’re here.

            For all the criticism thrown in the Flames direction over a late second-rounder, I’ve yet to see one argument where a viable alternative was named. And even if people name several, they would only be looking at a draft list, maybe a few highlights, and making an uneducated guess.

            Hunter Smith is a project. The Flames have plenty of good prospects in the system that they could afford to make an educated guess.

          • JMK

            I do believe HSmith made huge strides over last season in all scouting reports. Also believe he was a PPG playoff performer last year.

            I think we should wait and see how he develops.

          • There seems to be an awful lot of scouts in here still looking for a job at the NHL level.

            Not to pick on you specifically, but let’s retire this appeal to authority in hockey discussions please. Basically every single debate we have here and outside the NHL in general could be shut down with “let’s always give the benefit of the doubt to the experts.” Which would make for a pretty boring sit. And internet.

          • everton fc

            I wouldn’t be able to post here after my scouting turned into a prediction Guillaume Desbiens would stick with the team long-term! 🙂

            At least my scouting is improving – Ferland… Maybe Roy… Carroll… Kanzig (though I’m not convinced about him, yet.)

            Back to Smith… He does remind me of John Scott. I’m hoping he doesn’t end up that way.

            Blogs like this are about the fans having a voice. Most of us watch a lot of games. Some played at various levels. Ultimately, being a sports fan is suppose to be FUN. I’m sure the Royals and A’s fans last evening both enjoyed that classic.

            As it should be….

          • McRib

            Absolutely every pre-draft ranking that I read had Hunter Smith as a second rounder and that’s where we took him… Some like you mentioned even felt he had major sleeper potential, which I feel is justified.

            Hunter Smith had two nice assists in the final scrimmage of rookie camp and another two points in the Penticton tournament. I really don’t understand the hate on for Hunter Smith….

            Private Publications like Red Line Report ranked the Flames 2014 Draft as the the fifth best behind only Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg, Columbus.. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News also had the Flames as a Top. 5 draft… Yet Walter White is saying that we bombed the draft…. I know who I am listening too, because when people like Walter White were complaing about drafting Emile Poirier last year… Publications like Red Line Report were saying that he could be the steal of the draft…. Who was right…. Oh and what a lousy start Hunter Smith has had as a point a game player for Oshawa even though his regular centre is still at camp with the NYI.

          • seve927

            You keep comparing this to Poirier. Please stop. Any complaints about that pick stopped about 3 minutes after the pick, when people had a chance to look at his numbers. He is in no way comparable to Hunter Smith.

        • SavardianSpinorama

          I don’t think the people who bought Bitcoin in September of 2013 are complaining right now.

          By all accounts (only what I read from people who get paid to evaluate players) this was a relatively weak draft once you got past the top four or five players.

          As a fan (let’s be real, I couldn’t scout players at the Bantam level) I was ecstatic the Oilers made the Flames’ decision so easy by taking Draisaitl.

          Smith was ranked 39th among North American skaters. So, throw in the Europeans, and even if there were 30 of them combined (there weren’t), he’d have still been in the top 70.

          Clearly, Smith needs to work on his skating. That said, Zdeno Chara didn’t exactly light up the league his first few seasons, either. And while a talent-for-talent comparison may not be justified, height-for-height is fair. Big kids are generally awkward and uncoordinated in their teens.

          If the Flames had drafted Smith ahead of Bennett, your Bitcoin analogy would be more accurate, and the Flames would be the dumb investor/gambler who bought at the top. Instead, what the Flames got was a low risk/high reward stock that might turn out to be a winning ticket in the lottery. If it fails, meh, who cares? Odds are the players picked after him (you know, all those NHL ready, bonafide, real deal, superstars-in-waiting that the Flames missed out on) won’t amount to anything, either.

          • SavardianSpinorama

            Treating second and third round picks like “throw-aways” is how you end up like Edmonton: you get a top player in round one; (because you sucked so bad the year before) and nothing else.

            The Flames needed to nail the second and third rounds this year and failed…..

            WW

          • SavardianSpinorama

            Tell us Walter, please, with your vast experience in choosing eighteen year old kids for their potential as future NHL’ers, who would you have drafted?

          • piscera.infada

            We have been through this.
            Do some more research on my previous posts…

            I doubt any of our 4 second and third round picks will be playing for the Flames in 5 years.

            WW

          • SavardianSpinorama

            Ummm, no we haven’t been through this.

            Please re-submit your draft list, as I seem to have missed out on the TV episode where you and Bob McKenzie et al got into a heated argument about who was who in the 2014 draft.

            Thanks in advance!

  • RKD

    Outside of being oohed and awed by Johnny, who else has been good this preseason. Ferland has, Sven is a better 2 way player now than a year ago. But two guys who have really surprised me have been Jooris and Kulak. Jooris gives this organization even more depth upfront and that is a good thing.

    We have often discussed the lack of defensemen as prospects in this organization but Kulaks play has been so good. If he is third in the line of prospects behind Wspoon and Sieloff then it is not as dire as we have been lead to believe,

      • piscera.infada

        I’m pretty sure I recall you saying that Bennett was “the wrong pick” during the prospects camp. Did you finally come to the realization that you have no idea what you’re talking about?

        PI

        • Avalain

          I was curious, so I looked into it. You’re wrong. Walter White may have a strong opinion about things, but he has always been happy with the Bennett pick. He was happy when he was first drafted (and then upset about our 2nd round draft picks…which you’ll notice hasn’t changed either). His comment during the prospects camp was basically “…Gaudreau and Bennett, but we know that they’re going to dominate”.

          So you may actually owe him an apology here.

          Edit: extra props for anyone who knows where my new avatar is from!

          • piscera.infada

            Apologize to the “great” WW? Never.

            Per the thread following the first game against Winnipeg:

            Ok, I will be the first to call it; BT is not long for this team…….

            Sure BB will give him a full year (otherwise BB would look like a complete moron…) but BT will be gone before the 2 year mark.

            It is completely unacceptable to bomb an entire draft during a rebuild. (I admit, I thought Bennett was a good pick at the time).

            Then,

            Yeah, he [Bennett] really sucked tonight, didn’t he?

            Ehlers looked so good.

            WW

            Sure, it wasn’t an explicit statement (as I wrongly thought it was), but his basic tenor was decidedly negative, so I stand by my comment. It’s ridiculous to judge the merits of a draft pick based on a prospects camp and one prospects tournament game (as with Bennett above), just as much as it’s ridiculous to judge a draft pick based on his first two months in the organization (as with Smith) for no reason other than you don’t like the cut of his jib – or “because, big”, or “because, small”.

            As a point of contention towards Kent’s earlier comment, I agree in principle – “you’re not a scout” is a blanket statement, that has nothing to really add to the discussion. That said, there should, without a doubt, be a measured response to draft picks – whether they prima facie look “good” or “bad”. If I haven’t seen a player play ever, I can make a reasonable assessment of his skills based on numbers, but I will defer at least in part, to decision makers who have been paid to form an opinion on them. It’s clearly not gospel, but it’s worth some consideration – of course, this assumes the scouts don’t make bad picks because they’re sleeper-agents for the Oilers.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Cool….. Now can you please reprint my post where I said that Jeff from Lethbridge looks like the fat chick getting married to the skinny dude; that was an all-timer!!!!!!

            WW

          • ChinookArchYYC

            I don’t read any of his comments anymore, but I took exception to him calling Bennett a cream puff, after he wasn’t able to do a pull up, at the combine. Opinions are fine but a personal attack of an 18 year old kid (and a non-pro athlete) is not acceptable behavior.

            So, no he has most certainly changed his view on Bennett.

          • everton fc

            WW is like a fan heckling your team at a home game – a fan of the opposition who’s come a long way to support his team, with part of that support being a bit of trash-talking and prodding. It’s all in good fun, boys.

            I remember being at a Cannons game a few summers ago and there was a guy behind us who was hilarious in his heckling. Clean, too. No profanity, which is a blessing these days. Not a meat-head – just having some fun.

            Loosen up a bit. It is amazing to me, though, that Bennett couldn’t do a single pull-up. My 11 year old son, who’s a lean kid, can do at least two at the park behind our home!

            Once Bennett adds some muscle – and he will, look at Monahan, and Colborne, who looked huge last evening – and he’ll be fine. The skill is undoubtedly there. He’ll need to be able to bounce off opponents, like Ferland did when he met Wilson at centre ice. That was amazing. He simply bounced off Wilson and kept pursuit. Tough as nails, that kid. Love those Wheat Kings!

    • mk

      CP..I think Wspoon and Sieloff will be starters at the NHL level within 12 months. Kulak in 18 months.

      By the time BB/BT get done Flames fan will not recognize this team, particularly the defense by end of this season.

      The future looks good at forward and goaltending. I remain concerned with the defense and lack of prospects and I’m afraid this could be a work in progress for a couple of years or more.

      I suspect some of our young forward prospects (Reinhart, Sven ??) and perhaps others will be moved for defensive prospects to assure a better balance.

      • everton fc

        Has Sieloff really looked this good? Me thinks he’ll need a year, minimum, in the AHL before his 12-month clock begins to tick. Hope I’m wrong…

        Unrelated to last night contest, I am really becoming a fan of Chris Russell. He seems a real character guy, a decent, home-grown provincial boy from Caroline. Always loved Jimmy Vandermeer, still plyaing the game in the Swiss league (Kloten!). Good to see another guy from that area turn out so well.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Treliving is exactly right. There are so many undeniably good, hungry, young players. Youngry. Every one of them. Vets too!

    I think they can still smooth out their game too. That’s the scary part. They can play better. Wow.

    -I could sing Max’s praises all day. Arnold too. Jooris, Agostino, Bennett, Monahan, Kulak (just go down the list of all the kids) they are developing. CGY is clearly improving all their prospects. Wow. It’s unfair to not mention all of them because it would take days to type.

    -I love watching Ferland do his thing. He gives so much to his team. Every. Night.

    -Sven keeps improving. Once the levee breaks he is going to be hard to stop. Keep pushing!

    – I noticed at WC, probably elsewhere too, JG makes an unreal shot, confidence bubbles over, magic ensues …

    • everton fc

      I don’t like Walter White. He’s ignorant and annoying. I’m sure he takes that as a compliment of the highest regard. His redeeming quality though is how short his posts are. Quick one-hitters. Difficult to ignore because by the time you realize it’s him, you’ve already read the post. By the the same token, the annoyance is done as quickly as it begins.

  • CDB

    Johnny was a beast last night, and we obviously haven’t even seen his best hockey. The same goes for Sam Bennett.

    This is the most excited I’ve been in a long time!

  • icedawg_42

    Im a total fatass and I can do 10 chinups. Doesn’t make me a better hockey player. Anyway – completely relevant. Sam Bennett is a helluva hockey player, and after only seeing him play live once, I will defend the following opinion to anyone: Sam Bennett is decidedly NOT a creampuff.

  • seve927

    Does anyone have any updates/info on Jankowski?

    I’m one fan that has not written off this kid. The last I heard he gained height and weight and was starting to put his game together. I realize this is a big year for him at Providence and hopefully he get’s off to a great start!

    When evaluating that transaction I need to remind myself that Sieloff (2nd rounder) was also gained in that move.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Only real update is that he’s added 10-15 lbs of muscle mass since last season. He was injured for the prospect camp, and couldn’t make main camp/preseason (none of the college kids can because school has started). The NCAA season doesn’t start until early October, so no hockey on his part at all.

      As with last season, this is a very important season. He showed some improvement last season, including a move from wing to centre, and this season he needs to show a significant jump in production.

    • scoopz

      I’m going to try and make the 10/24 and 10/25 dates in Grand Forks when they play UND. Hopefully I have something positive to report in regards to Janko, Gilmour and Gillies.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    JG sniped from distance (pretty much on top of the left f/o dot).

    If one goes back to look at his WC heroics, he shoots through defender (drag and release) to get him going in that tourney.

    It was after that shot that we saw the confident toe drags, the setups, the hard backcheck – turnover – 2 on 1’s …

    He gets a sniff and he’s a dog on a bone.

    I don’t want his head to swell (too humble anyway) but once he gets his groove, once he realizes he can play his game – whenever he wants – I think there is no telling what he can be …

    BT is worrying about goals. If they keep getting shots and use the preseason to zero their range, he won’t worry much.

    Off the rush, off the cycle, off the dump …

    5 man units, wave after wave, is what I see. Can’t help it, they just need to keep being relentless and the levee will break.

    There were quite a few nifty plays by Sven and Sean … it’s coming, you can clearly see it.

    Hartley has to focus this talent. I want to see the underdog mentality and don’t want to see guys getting full of themselves. Not saying it’s happening but human nature being what it is…

    The players must keep testing their limits and not get complacent. Raise the bar, meet it, then raise it again.

    It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process .. haha!