(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 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.
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.