It was a tale of two cities on Monday night for the Calgary Flames.
Unfortunately, the tale was the same in both Calgary and Edmonton, as the Flames dropped a 2-1 pre-season game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and a 4-2 decision at Rogers Place and ended up losing twice in the same day to the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s pre-season, but it probably still stings.
The game itself was a bit low on chances that were capitalized upon, and the first period itself was a bit low on chances overall, but the pace picked up as the game wore on. Shots were 8-5 Flames in the first, but they were undone by a bunch of bad turnovers and awkward passes that missed their intended recipient. It was apparent that many of these guys were a tad rusty.
The rust got knocked off quite a bit in the second, as the Bennett-Brouwer-Tkachuk line generated a ton of chances in a short span: a goal by Brouwer that was disallowed as Tkachuk was on top of the goalie in the crease and a pair of near-misses by Alex Chiasson and Deryk Engelland from the slot. Bennett and Brouwer also combined on a great scoring chance during a penalty kill, but the Oilers kept it scoreless. Shots were 8-7 for the home side in the second, and the Flames out-chanced the Oilers quite a bit in the contest.
Mason McDonald took over in the third period. Unfortunately, he couldn’t score for the Flames. The top line generated a metric ton of chances once more, but Laurent Brossoit was really solid in the final frame. Anton Slepyshev scored on the power-play, collecting an errant point shot under the goal line and bonking it in off of McDonald. That was all she wrote. The Flames generated a ton of movement with a late power-play, but they couldn’t score and Jere Sallinen scored on an empty net to ice this one. Mark Giordano broke the combined shutout bid for the Oilers (on another late power-play), but it was too little, too late, and the Flames fell 2-1.
WHO LOOKED GOOD?
Sam Bennett was the best player on the ice for either team. In a tie for second place was Brian Elliott and both of Edmonton’s goalies, which is why the Flames lost a close one. Troy Brouwer was also quite good on Bennett’s right side, but Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t quite his rambunctious self and seemed a bit passive (and occasionally lost) as the night wore on.
Others that impressed were the speedy Hunter Shikaruk, the dazzling skating and puck-handling of defender Oliver Kylington, and the booming shot of Eetu Tuulola.
The main takeaway from tonight was the Flames aren’t going to be nearly as passive in their own end as they were last season. If teams are able to get past the contested entry at the blueline and can recover the puck, the Flames were much more active at attacking the puck-holder with speed and numbers to generate turnovers (and minimize quality chances).
Yes, that puts a huge onus on intelligent positioning and individual player foot-speed, and that’ll be something they’ll have to make adjustments with.
The active forecheck in their own end also translated to a more active penalty kill, which generated some turnovers and looked good aside from the wonky goal against.
The power-play seemed to cycle the puck well, too. We’ll need to see how their zone entries fare against actual NHL defensive groups before we figure out what they’re all about, but they did manage to get the puck deep and maintain pressure.
MEANWHILE, IN EDMONTON
The Flames lost 4-2 in Edmonton. Kenney Morrison and Freddie Hamilton scored, with Morrison’s goal coming off a nifty feed from Mark Jankowski. Jon Gillies was said to be quite solid, facing 39 shots from the majority of the NHL-ready Oilers and only giving up 4 goals. Given the AHL-level defense he had in front of him, his performance should be commended.
Jon Gillies acquitting himself well here in CGY’s nets
— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) September 27, 2016
The group that played in Edmonton will now travel to Winnipeg, where they’ll play the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night.
“Wideman put it on a platter, and Giordano decided it was time to eat.” – Peter Loubardias, describing Giordano’s late-game PP goal.
“I liked territorially where we were, I saw a lot of things that they’ll see tomorrow that were positive, just gonna reinforce our game. We’ll make some corrections on some things where we cheated here or there. We’ve looked at those things a little bit already. We’ll make the corrections, we’ll reinforce the positives and we’ll keep moving.” – Flames coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s adaptation to his new system.
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) September 27, 2016
The non-playing group practices in Calgary tomorrow, while the rest of the team will be in Winnipeg to take on the Jets. That game goes at 6pm MT, and it’s on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and presumably a web stream from the Flames site.