The Calgary Flames went into the last home pre-season game hoping for some decisions to become clearer.
They went into the third period of the game hoping for some signs of life from their veterans or their kids after a lackluster second period.
They left the contest with potentially even less clarity in their final cuts than they had hoped to find. The Flames dominated the third period and beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2.
The opening 20 minutes was really two different periods. There were the three Flames power-plays, and then there was the rest of it. The Flames generated a bunch of chances on their power-plays but couldn’t score. The Jets generated a bunch of chances at even-strength and couldn’t score. The Jets and Flames were about even in chances overall at 7-7, but the Jets generated more at even-strength (5-3). The Jets led in shot attempts by a 19-15 margin, but a lot of those shots were blocked, so shots on goal were 10-7 Calgary. Karri Ramo was pretty good in the first.
The second period was not great for Calgary. It opened with a two-on-none break for the Jets off a horrendous line change. Then nobody got a clean shot on goal for the first 8 minutes of the period. And when it did, it was a flukey bank shot that deflected in off Grant Clitsome via Sean Monahan shot. The Jets again really carried play at even-strength, and they pulled even off a really gorgeous passing play between Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele, which ended up with a Scheifele goal. The Jets led 8-4 in chances, 6-5 in shots and 18-9 in shot attempts. Oh, and 1-0 in goals that weren’t weird bounces.
Whatever yelling or pleading Bob Hartley did in-between periods, the kids sure did respond to it, though.
Johnny Gaudreau drove the net and got a shot off. He didn’t score, but Josh Jooris potted in the rebound at close range to give Calgary the lead. On the very next shift, and the very next rush, Sean Monahan rifled a Paul Byron set-up past Michael Hutchison to make it 3-1. Five minutes later, on a really nice sequence of passes and board work by Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau, Bennett set up Jooris for a gorgeous tap-in goal out front that Hutchison had zero chance on. The Jets finally got on the board late in the period via a pretty goofy sequence of penalties that gave them a 5-on-3 advantage (which Chris Thorburn scored on), but it was too, too late. Calgary won 4-2. My unofficial chance tally was 9-5 for the Flames, with the Flames also leading 10-5 in shots and 3-0 in goals. Shot attempts were 17-17 apiece in the last period.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
They were awful in the second period and flipped the switch and were very good in the third period.
In particular? Their kids – Bennett, Jooris and particularly Gaudreau – were superb in the third period. The Jets had no answer for their energy and skill in the final frame.
Johnny Gaudreau had three assists. He gets it.
Honourable mention to Josh Jooris, who keeps surprising the heck out of everybody. He had two goals by being in the right place and reading the play well. He’s been very good all camp, probably the best or second-best player (behind Gaudreau).
SUM IT UP
The Flames are now guaranteed to finish over .500 this pre-season. That doesn’t mean much, but their roster decisions are really, really tough.
Johnny Gaudreau should be on this roster come October 8. That’s a virtual certainty. I have no idea what happens with Josh Jooris. He deserves to be here, too. But the Flames have a lot of veterans on one-way deals, and I’m not 100% sure if the team has the guts to bury some deals in the minors.
We’ll find out in short order.