Post-Game: Flames edge Canucks 2-1

Exhibition hockey is rarely picturesque. Heck, it’s often “bowling shoe ugly,” and the best everyone involved can hope for is no injuries and for some positive signs. For the Calgary Flames, they managed to defeat the Vancouver Canucks at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday night in a rather disjointed 2-1 affair. But they got another strong performance from Brian Elliott and their de facto top line.

Here’s how it went down in Calgary’s fourth pre-season contest of this season.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames were sharp in the opening period, aside from a late period lull that followed a Canucks power-play. The theme of the period was “skating hard.” A forecheck by Alex Chiasson led to a Canucks defensive zone penalty and, 19 seconds later, the game’s opening goal on the power-play. A nice rapid-fire “around the horn” cycle from Giordano to Bennett to Brouwer, and a quick shot, beat Richard Bachman to make it 1-0. The Flames had a five-on-three for nearly a minute later in the period but couldn’t capitalize. The Canucks gained some momentum later on after Mark Jankowski took a defensive zone penalty and the Canucks finally got some time with the puck, but Brian Elliott was solid and the period ended with the Flames up by a goal. Shots were 10-6 Calgary in the first.

The Canucks continued to gain momentum in the second, as the Flames failed to capitalize on a power-play that followed an awkward, late collision between Matthew Tkachuk and Vancouver’s Joseph LaBate.

Luckily Tkachuk was fine and returned to the game. Micheal Ferland promptly fought LaBate. Jankowski took another defensive zone penalty and the Canucks finally broke through slightly after the penalty expired, with Deryk Engelland losing his man in the defensive zone and Guillaume Brisebois sliding down towards the net and beating Elliott with Vancouver’s 10th shot of the period.

But some nice forechecking pressure drew another Vancouver penalty, and the Flames capitalized off a wonky play that saw a Brouwer shot careen into the air and land in the blue paint, where Tkachuk drove the net and poked it in.

Shots were 13-7 for Vancouver in the middle frame.

The final frame was, even by pre-season standards, a bit disjointed. It was punctuated by a pair of scrums which seemed to put a bit of energy into the latter part of the period. Garnet Hathaway slid into Brendan Gaunce with a nice hit at the Flames blueline, leading to a crowd and Hathaway fighting Jack Skille. The ensuing Flames power-play was cut short with a skirmish in the Canucks zone. Vancouver pressed late with a power-play and the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, but they couldn’t equalize the game and the Flames held on for a 2-1 victory. Shots were 11-7 for the hosts in the third period.

SYSTEMS STUFF

The positives? The power-play moved the puck rather well and scored twice, with the Brouwer-Bennett-Tkachuk-Giordano-Hamilton grouping looking quite good. The secondary unit, featuring Matt Stajan’s line, wasn’t quite as well-oiled (but you wouldn’t expect them to be).

The penalty kill was okay. They cleared things out well enough, but they seemed too often to try for cute passes rather than make the safe “glass and out” play. Against Vancouver’s odds and sods, it wasn’t enough to sink them.

Five-on-five, the Flames’ top line was good, but everyone else seemed to need a bit of work. The breakouts were a bit uneven and they seemed to too often make one pass too many (or have a pass get intercepted and cause them to get hemmed into their own end).

HOW’D THEY LOOK?

As has been the story so far this pre-season, the goalies were really good. Brian Elliott is the personification of calmness in net, and the lone goal against came on a defensive breakdown at the tail-end of a penalty kill. Tyler Parsons came in for the third and gave up zero goals in what might be his only pre-season action before he heads back to junior.

The top defensive pairing (Giordano and Hamilton) and top forward line (Tkachuk, Bennett and Brouwer) were good, especially on the power-play. Heck, Bennett and Brouwer were solid on the penalty kill as well.

The fourth line of Jankowski, Klimchuk and Hathaway were uneven, with Hathaway standing out a bit with his physicality but the other two falling by the wayside tonight. The rest of the lines and pairings were a mixture of good and bad, with everyone having a few nice shifts but the whole group tending to get hemmed into their own end arguably too much considering the quality of the line-up the Canucks were dressing.

QUOTEABLE

“It was unbelievable. I was so happy for him, how well he played, he deserves that little shutout in the third. Whether or not, whatever happens, he left his mark here for sure. He’s one of the best goalies I’ve obviously ever played with, so he’s got a bright future. What you guys just saw here is a glimpse. He’s got a lot better things to come in the future.” – Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk, on London Knights teammate Tyler Parsons’ NHL pre-season debut against Vancouver

“It just kind of lets everybody play with a little less tension. You’re not afraid if you have one little bobble or turnover it’s gonna end up in your net. That’s always a good feeling to play, it lets you play a little looser and when you’re looser you play a little more fluid and make better plays.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the impact Brian Elliott’s calm demeanour has on the team.

“I think it’s important for young players, especially a guy like Benny, to penalty kill as much as they can because if he’s going to play (and he is playing) center in the National Hockey League, it makes you a better player when you have to go out there for 30 seconds and you’re committed to the details of the game on the defensive side. And that just helps their overall game, so I wanted to get Benny out there as much as I could, especially with Brouwer and the opportunity at the end of the game was good experience.” – Gulutzan, on using Sam Bennett on the penalty kill.

UP NEXT

The Flames are back in pre-season action on Sunday when they host the Winnipeg Jets at the Saddledome. The Sunday night game kicks off at 7pm.

  • The Sultan

    I know it’s only the preseason but I’m really starting to like Gulutzan. Tkachuk makes the Flames for at least nine games and we finish ahead of the Oilers. And you can take that to the bank.

      • The Sultan

        I will bet you money right now Stajan gets a fraction of the PP time this season as everybody else does.

        Who else was he going to put out there?

        Monahan? Backlund?

        ….

        Gaudreau?

        • McRib

          The rest of the league hates Flames fans? I don’t know about that. A vocal minority of Oilers fans make a big deal of cheering against us (but I know a ton of solid Oilers fans who look at the rivalry as more sibling). I cheered for Edmonton in 2006 on Whyte Ave with Edmonton friends (Cup belongs in Alberta). Vancouver fans hate us, but everyone hates Vancouver. Case in point in 2004 I was doing my undergrad in TO. Everyone in Ontario was cheering for us to win cup. Then I was doing my master when the Canucks went to final, nobody cared. Although the summer before Burrows had made a fool of himself in Montreal fighting someone in summer men’s league and they also had that weasel Max Lapierre, so no one was cheering for them, but as I was told most Leafs fans know people who have moved out West… The Leafs fans going into games in Calgary were embraced with open arms, Leafs fans in Vancouver were spit on. Word travels fast (I was also spit on at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver wearing an Iginla Canada Jersey.) Best part about that story is my best friend beside me, was captain of UBC Mens Hockey.

        • freethe flames

          This is a silly statement as the players you mentioned did not even dress and heck one of them is not even signed. However I do believe he could have gotten a much better read of some of his prospects by playing them on the PP than guys who are not going to play there. My personal opinion is you need to give your skill guys a chance to be your skill guys not playing with pluggers. Some skill guys may end up being those 3/4th liners later in their career but don’t saddle them there this early in their development. I would love to see Shinkaruk/Janko/Poirier be a line for the next exhibition game and give them some PP even if they are struggling as this might be your top PP unit in Stockton(although I think Shinkaruk will make the NHL out of camp) or Mangiapane/Janko/Poirier; again for the same reasons.

  • smatic10

    Watched 2.5 periods of this game so I managed to type out a quick player review:

    Gio: Solid as always.

    Kylington: Played an overall solid game. I can’t help but smile when I watch how his defensive play has improved so much over one season. Still loses puck battles in the defensive end though so he needs to bulk up. But he makes great first passes and skates effortlessly.

    Jankowski: Not a good game overall. Just didn’t manage to hold on to the puck much and he took two unnecessary penalties. He managed to pass the puck around a little in the third though. I see the ability there and I’m pretty confident he’ll be an NHL player really soon. To be honest, if you were to put him on the opening night roster, he would be alright (how much worse than Stajan could he really be). But I think it’s fair to say we all want a Janko that can make an actual impact. A full AHL season would do wonders for him.

    Stajan: The game has really passed him by. Bugged me that Gully put him on the second PP unit when that ice time could have been used for someone like Janko. He did prevent a goal by tying up a stick in front, so that was nice. The cons outweigh the pros though, I’m afraid.

    Brouwer: Goal Scorer #1: Pretty good game. Physical. Passes the puck a lot better then I was expecting. He actually plays a pretty responsible game which is nice to see. I’m just glad that someone we’re paying $4.5 mil/yr for is someone that plays with passion and is a leader out there. Been pretty impressed with him this pre-season.

    Tkachuk: Goal Scorer #2: Great hustle on the goal. To be able to fight for that puck and slide it in, all while positioning yourself in a tight space is a pretty tough thing to do. Glad we have someone that can bring that threat on the PP. Good to see him not take a dumb penalty in the game. His foot speed is noticeably slower than it needs to be which leads me to wonder if he’ll even be given his 9 games. Monny was lucky in the sense that this team was so center-deprived, that despite his foot speed problems, he was still given a shot in his rookie year. To be fair, he certainly earned his spot. And his elite wrister and solid face-off ability cemented his spot. Tkachuk needs to bring some other elements to the table, like Monny did, if he wants to remain on the roster this year.

    Elliot: How can you not love this guy? For starters, he has sick equipment. He competes so hard. Positionally sound and has quick movements. He froze the puck and got a little tap and he stood up and pushed the guy. He was visibly upset after conceding a goal. Very solid.

    Parsons: Only had 20 minutes to work with, so he didn’t have to do too much. But this kid’s aggressive and never gives up on pucks. McDonald better make a solid case for himself otherwise Parson’s is going to quickly overtake him on the depth chart (from what I’ve seen on message boards, a lot of people seem to think he already has haha)

    Chiasson: Was pretty invisible for the most part. He turned it on in the third a little bit. Managed to see him actually hold on to the puck for more than 1 second. Has pretty decent wheels once he gets going. He looks a lot like Setoguchi did in his time here. He needs to shoot that puck with confidence. Benny made a great pass to him from behind the net and instead of one-timing it, he tried to pull to his right but couldn’t get the shot off. He got some PP time in Brouwers spot towards the end of the game and he managed to move that puck around.

    Bennett: This kid is money. Strong, fast, good hands. He competes out there every shift. He was winning his fair share of face-offs too which was nice to see. On the PP sometimes he tried to force a pass to Gio too much by dangerously saucing it. It seems he made an adjustment though on the other PP’s as he managed to get a hard wrister glove side on Demo (which was stopped). This kid is going to be very dangerous if he continues to shoot the puck. He’s already so good at taking the puck to the net, he just needs to further develop that killer instinct to score goals.

    Engelland: Solid overall. Not much else to say.

    Wideman: To be honest, I’ve been a supporter of Wideman’s since he got here in 2012. I think his defensive game is underrated. He obviously moves the puck well. And he was no different tonight. Just solid overall. You obviously wouldn’t want him on your first pairing, but in a 4/5/6 role he is still capable. I am weirdly calm when he has the puck. I feel like people are too hard on him. I just hope he can play and forget about the ugliness of last year. Nobody’s going to take him off our hands so we might as well hope he has a decent season.

    Wotherspoon: One of the most boring hockey players I have ever witnessed in my life. I don’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing. Sometimes a team needs someone who can just eat up minutes by making simple plays. I’m a strong advocate for making him a permanent fixture on the third pairing. He won’t hurt your team, but he won’t necessarily be a threat to other teams. One thing though, for a stay at home defenseman, the kid can skate pretty well. Just put him in the darn line-up full time.

    D. Hamilton: I liked his game. He has a wicked snapshot. Sometimes he can make a simple entry into the zone a dangerous one by getting that shot off. He’s a solid threat on the PP but in this game he didn’t shoot that much on the man advantage. He was in a prime location too (Ovechkin/Stamkos one timer spot). Our power play can be lethal if each player has the confidence to play to their strengths. He needs to shoot more.

    F.Hamilton: You can tell he’s trying really hard to make the roster. He’s definitely earned a spot thus far. He was being really aggressive in the face-off dot as he was waved out several times. He was a little chippy too as he gave Gudbranson a little shove after the whistle.

    Hathaway: Great energy as always. If he could develop a little scoring touch somehow, he would be the perfect 4th liner.

    Klimchuk: I’m really pulling for this guy to have a solid year in Stockton to build some confidence. He has good wheels and a decent shot but he seems nervous when he’s out there. He managed to hit the post short side on an individual rush. I still have hope that he’ll be an NHLer. It needs to start with him being healthy and him putting up some points.

    Ferland: Stood up for Tkachuk after a hit and fought Labate. He’s always competing hard out there. He definitely seems like he’s going to improve on his point totals from last year. He just needs to fire that puck more often. Can’t score unless you shoot. It’s that simple.

    Higgins: I’m almost certain that he won’t be offered a contract. To be frank, he’s just not very good. He did show some of his PK ability which is definitely something we need but then he fanned on a puck trying to clear it. Just meh overall.

    Shinkaruk: Not his best game. Turned the puck over twice while on the PP. What I do like about him though is that when the puck is on his stick, you can tell that’s trying to make something happen. He won’t just hopelessly cycle the puck. The bounces just didn’t go his way tonight, I still feel like he’s playing well enough to be on the opening night roster.

    • cberg

      Overall great comments, with the exception of Tkachuk being slow. Didn’t see that at all. He wasn’t pulling away from guys, but he was definitely keeping up.

    • KACaribou

      Great observations and thanks for giving your opinions on the preseason game. This is what makes exhibition so damned interesting. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Great job, I had to miss the game.

    • freethe flames

      I watched the second and third period and have some different takes on the game.

      I thought Gio was average at best. He had a number of unforced turnovers and took a lazy penalty. I expect better from him.

      GG use of Stajan on the PP baffles me. Stajan got more minutes on the PP than he will get on the PP the rest of his career. Why this baffles me is that either Janko or Hamilton will likely be your top 2 centers on the PP in the AHL and every moment that they would have had last night would help their development. I would much rather have seen a Shinkaruk/Janko(Hamilton)/Ferland PP unit than Stajan.

      I more or less agree with you comments on Kylington but at least he was engaged in puck battles and that is a good sign.

      It was interesting seeing Janko on the PK and he did not look out of place there. Hard to access his O when he is playing 4th line with Hathaway who will be a 4th liner at the NHL or a 3rd liner in the AHL. But Janko could try and be a bit more engaged.

      Most of the rest I agree with. Higgins did have a good PK on the last Vancouver PP though. Eng’s was not as good as you thought. Your discussion on Wide’s was a good one; last night I noticed that his shot was getting through to the net something that did not happen enough last year. Maybe he will have a bit of a bounce back this year and we can trade him at some point.

  • smatic10

    Oh and also some extra notes:

    While the PP was 2/7 or whatever it was, it was still not a very good one. Typical problems were frequently occuring (couldn’t enter the zone, couldn’t get shots on net, very few crisp passes).

    The PK was also not impressive. The Canucks had a decent amount of zone time. We weren’t “defending fast”. It looked pretty similar to a Hartley PK to be honest.

    With that being said, it is pre-season so one shouldn’t worry too much. But I hope they’re not signs of things to come.

    Also, I miss Monny and Johnny like crazy. We are a completely different team with them in the lineup.

  • McRib

    One minor takeaway from tonight’s game. Alex Chiasson’s speed really stood out for me tonight. He looks like he could turn into a very effective bottoms six energy forward, please oh please make Bouma or Bollig obsolete (He may even be able to play with Frolik, Backs on the third line at times). That said he probably should have had a couple goals tonight and as a result its questionable he will ever be top six, but he kind of reminds me of a Sean Donovan or a bigger Paul Biron. i.e. a speedy bottom six forward who can quietly drive the play forward all game out of own zone and wear down the opposing team on the forecheck. I think all our PTOs will be gone next round of cuts (maybe Higgins stays one more), as other signed players have stepped up and fit in where they should (Kulak, Chiasson, Ferland, etc). Anyway in today’s game speed in the bottom six is everything for me.

    I also agree with everyone else Stajan looked awful!!! It wasn’t Jankowski’s greatest game (although he made up for two bad penalties by drawing a crucial one late), but he was miles better than Stajan.

  • Sobueno

    I thought Tkachuk showed some good positioning and stick handling on that goal. A lot of other guys with less finish could have easily bobbled the puck or tried to push it in too early and got stumped. After the penalty train in Penticton probably a positive he wasn’t so penalized this time around.

    Also liking Gultuzan’s approach to Bennett so far, especially considering the grumblings that Hartley wasn’t utilizing him very well last year. Giving him those opportunities early to learn and grow, and some decent line mates to both mentor and support his success. Excited to see how his season goes for sure.

  • JKG

    @smatic10

    Bang on assessment!

    Only thing I’d add is how much i love Elliot’s presence and demeanor. It’s such a refreshing change to have a calm cool methodical goalie out there, for literally the first time since Miika’s glory days.

  • RickT

    I watched most of the game, and just have a few things to add on to what has already been said.

    Bennett: kid is a stud – I’ve been a fan of his since before he was drafted; he is first in a scrum for his teammates and takes nothing for granted. Honestly, both goals had a lot of his influence on them.

    Tkachuk: did look a little slow, but never behind the play. Almost seems like what Monahan was advertised as – a player that may not have the speed, but thinks the game at such a high level that he is always where he should be. Monahan got a lot of dirty goals in his first year, I suspect Tkachuk will be the same.

    Klimchuk: I thought he had a pretty quiet, but good game. He is very defensively responsible, from what I saw. I think he just needs to up his confidence. There was one time that it looked like he had a relatively clear shooting angle, and put it wide (in the 1st I think it was) – and then in the 3rd he put it off the post.

    Chiasson: has wheels, but like others mentioned, it takes him maybe an extra step to get going. I’m not super fluent on the mechanics of skating at a high level, but I think you know what I mean.

    Parsons: looked great – he seemed pretty calm in net, did not seem scrambly. Looked more Elliot than Berra.

    D. Hamilton: carrying on his play from last year – I like that G.G. put him and Gio out together to start the game. We should have trust in him now.

    F. Hamilton: his game seems suited for the 4th line for sure – he might be 3rd line at best. I would not pencil him in for the wing with Monahan and Gaudreau (I’ve noticed some posters have). He feels like a Bollig with some hockey talent – enough that he could be effective in the big show, but not so much for him to be a scoring winger in the top 6.

  • Hubcap1

    “bowling shoe ugly,”

    I always thought bowling shoes were quite stylish.

    I really happy to here that people have been liking Kylington’s game a lot, its very encouraging.

  • Burnward

    No real surprises at all to be honest.

    Think the team should have a relatively easy decision on personnel.

    Didn’t see any of the kids pushing too hard to take a place from the vets.

    Tkachuk can definitely stick around, but Janko, Shink and the rest can probably start in the AHL. Not sure about their waiver eligibility, but they need some seasoning I would think.

    Freddy looked like the most ready. No surprise there.

    All in all, pretty solid from the gang.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Higgins looked pretty good on that PK in the third where he twice intercepted enemy passes.

    Can’t see there being room on the Flames for Bollig, Stajan and Higgy.

  • Cheeky

    For all of those thinking Higgins could/should make this team, remember that right now he is playing his best to gain a contract. If you think his play is meh, how will it be once he’s got a contract and has that comfort blanket? Rather have a prospect with higher potential to grow than another washed up vet (we have enough of them in Stajan and Bollig). Higgins is this year’s Setoguchi….
    #byebyePTOs

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I agree with your point except the comparison with Setoguchi as he was a boozehound at the time. Why Tre thought throwing several hundred thousands of dollars Setoguchi’s way was going to cure him of his addiction, I don’t know. Can’t believe Tre didn’t know Setoguchi was fighting the bottle at the time.

      • Cheeky

        Would you prefer if I had used Raymond as a comparison instead? I’m not basing this on off-ice issues, I’m basing it on the obvious on-ice issues. I highly doubt he gains a contract however my fear is with the Vancouver connection with GG, coaches tend to go to something familiar rather than the obvious better choice.