The Calgary Flames polished off the home portion of their exhibition calendar tonight at the Scoitabank Saddledome against a non-traditional division rival in the Arizona Coyotes. The game was, to be charitable, low event. There were two regulation goals, three fights and a single goal scored in the shootout.
The Flames triumphed 2-1 in a game where the players that had already cemented roster spots looked good and the players on the fringes didn’t do a heck of a lot to distinguish themselves from each other.
The game had decent pace in the first period, and the balance of play was carried by the Flames – in part due to all the penalties they kept drawing. The hometown side had four different power plays in the opening frame. Their opening man-advantage generated a bunch of decent chances (powered by the primary unit of Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer-Hamilton-Giordano), but couldn’t score.
The Coyotes opened the scoring just after a kill, with Christian Fischer putting a pass in the perfect spot for a streaking Christian Dvorak to redirect over Brian Elliott to get a 1-0 lead. It didn’t last very long, though, as 29 seconds later – with Radim Vrbata in the box for hooking – Matthew Tkachuk got a feed from Sam Bennett and scored on a one-timer to tie the game up. Shots were 12-9 Calgary in the first, and we as many fights as goals: Nicklas Grossman scrapped with Nathan Fournier after the Coyote crashed into Elliott, and Max Domi fought Dougie Hamilton after a scrum. A really nice set play led to a scoring chance: with Tkachuk streaking
down left side, Bennett banked a pass behind him that he collected
mid-stride and he was able to get a shot off without scoring at all.
The second period had a fight after Lance Bouma blowed into Jamie McBain; teammate Jamie McGinn fought Bouma. There were no goals, though, and only a few strong scoring chances – notably Micheal Ferland powering his way to the net and getting a nice shot off. Shots were even at 7-7.
The third period had no fights and no goals, though the Flames had a few nice shifts of pressure. Notably, they also shuffled lines around a bit, putting Shinkaruk on the top line with Bennett and Brouwer. Shots were 12-4 for the Flames.
Nothing was settled in overtime (shots were 6-2 Calgary), and Matthew Tkachuk had the lone goal in the skills competition to polish things off.
The penalty kill was decent and fairly active in terms of pressuring the puck-carrier and generating turnovers – Backlund and Frolik generated a fair amount of carry-ins…on the kill. The power play’s top unit was good at moving the puck but aside from a few nice first period chances didn’t really have any gold-star chances or display much killer instinct. The second unit struggled to set up consistently throughout the game.
The Flames were pretty solid at five-on-five and did a good job at not getting hemmed into their own end or allowing odd-man rushes.
HOW DID THEY LOOK?
The players that have NHL jobs nailed down looked good: Tkachuk, Bennett, Brouwer, Giordano, Brodie, Backlund, Frolik and Hamilton in particular were quite good. Deryk Engelland was rock-solid defensively alongside Jokipakka, who needed bailing out a couple of times. Elliott was good, and occasionally really good. Ferland had some nice chances.
The rest of the club was a bit of a mixed bag. Grossmann threw some nice hits but got caught flat-footed in his own end frequently. Bouma, Vey and Chiasson were okay. Shinkaruk was decent, but not amazing. The fringe group just blurs together, which probably makes the final roster cuts even more of a muddle than they already were. Higgins was decent on the PK.
But after tonight – and the body of work he’s put together – it’ll be extremely tough for the Flames to keep Tkachuk off the opening night roster.
Has Matthew Tkachuk lost his often-chewed mouth guard in a game?
“Nope.” [Knocks on wooden locker stall.]
Is it actually in his mouth at any point during games?
“It is when I see Gio or Dougie wind up for a one-timer at the top of the point of the power play. That’s the only time, just in case.”
The Flames practice tomorrow at the ‘Dome, then jet off to Vancouver for their final exhibition tilt at Rogers Arena in the evening (8pm, Sportsnet 360).