Post-Game: Flames beat Coyotes 2-1 in preseason shootout

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 RUNDOWN

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.

SYSTEMS STUFF

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.

QUOTEABLE

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.”

UP NEXT

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).

  • McRib

    I understand trying to save cap space in the future by not burning a year off Matthew Tkachucks entry level contract, but the counter argument is equally as strong, especially considering bridge deals are no longer a thing and every top young player gets locked up long term on second deal. How much more will Tkachuk cost to resign as an RFA when his last year of the entry level was at 22 instead of 21?

    We know that prime starts at around 24, so the closer you get to that age in your final entry level year the larger your second deal is going to be. See Gaudreau’s value now compared to what it would have been if he was an RFA last summer or the year before. Another example, what if Sean Monahan went back to Ottawa for another year before turning pro? How much more would he be worth next summer compared to this summer? If Tkachuk shows he can be a serviceable player in his first nine games, I can’t see any major reason that he should go back to junior.

      • McRib

        Hahah. When you consider that the majority of players historically continue to improve every year until 23-24. Other than outlying cases, a 22 year old is usually going to be worth more than a 21 year old entering an RFA offseason. Especially someone like Tkachuk whose skating is only going to continue to improve the next two or three off season with more added leg strength (I must say his skating looks way better than I was expecting from media hype earlier this summer). Like I said, if he isn’t ready after nine games he isn’t ready, but any financial benifit upfront is cancelled out by added worth later, in normal cases. Not to mention he is much more likely to hit all rookie bonuses next year compared to this year.

    • Greatsave

      … especially considering bridge deals are no longer a thing and every top young player gets locked up long term on second deal.

      Ryan Strome, Huberdeau, Dumba, Barrie, Kevin Hayes, Elias Lindholm, Galchenyuk, Hertl, Couturier, Zibanejad, Yakupov, Schwartz, J.T. Miller… all got bridge deals, some as recently as this off-season. It really all depends on the player’s performance.

      Even if you look at only those who made their NHL teams straight out of the draft, like Lindholm, Galchenyuk, Couturier, and Yakupov, bridge deals are definitely still a “thing”, when either a) you haven’t shown enough or b) the team can’t afford you.

  • everton fc

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland; Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer; Shinkaruk/Bouma-Backlund-Frolik; Bouma/Shinkaruk-Stajan/Hamilton-Chiasson; Hamilton/Vey. I think this will be the opening day lineup. Not sure it’s strong enough, though.

    • Brent G.

      Given the players the Flames have to choose from, that is the best line up they could put together this year. They are still 1 top 9 winger away from having a solid line up. 1st line RW in particular.

    • cjc

      Think that’s about right, but I don’t think they’ll have Gaudreau signed for the opener. It’s definitely not strong enough, and Tkachuk/Shinkaruk will probably not look as great against everyday NHLers in the regular season. I like me some Ferland, but he’s not a long term solution on the top line. Has Shinkaruk even seen much time with Backlund in the preseason? That fourth line is going to get crushed.

      Ideally Bennett should be taking on tougher assignments, leaving Monahan and Gaudreau with easier ZS, but with Brouwer and Tkachuk riding the wings Gulutzan will need to take it easy on them.

      I can see them signing Higgins to a one year deal. He hasn’t been great, but has shown some ability on the PK.

      Will be interesting to see what forwards step up in Stockton. Who will get summoned when the first injury strikes, or if Tkachuk really struggles and gets sent back to junior?

    • freethe flames

      Basically the same line up I presented yesterday except I have Hathaway ahead of Vey. When looking at this line up so much about a couple of players stepping up(Bouma, SHinkaruk and Ferland) and GG having proper player usage with the forwards.

      The Monny line gets both Ozone and Dzone starts but mostly Ozone starts and plenty of PP time.

      The Bennett lines almost exclusively Ozone and Neutral Zone starts and plenty of PP time.

      The Backs line mostly Dzone starts and big PK time.

      Stajan line ??? Simply put this line needs to have mostly Neutral zone starts with the purpose of pushing the puck into the Ozone and get an offensive face off. When it gets Dzone starts it needs to be on the ice with one of the top two defence pairings. These guys need to be able to play the PK.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Your lines appear to be how they have played in pre-season. Ferland is the only available choice right now for top line. Tkachuk has at least earned his spot on Bennett’s line. Shinkaruk has more upside than Bouma on Backlund’s line.

      For the 4th line, you have a few choices. You could shift Stajan to LW and play Freddie at center with Chiasson on RW. Or you could leave Bouma at LW, Stajan at C, and Chiasson on RW. Vey and Hamilton are also RHS C, so you could play them on RW or C as well.

      Not ideal, but our top 3 lines are better than a lot of teams.

  • The GREAT WW

    Here is to hoping that Tkachuck ends up being in the top 3 talents of this years draft class;

    Matthews is obviously a generational talent.

    Laine is an absolute beast.

    None of the others have shown much as of yet….

    WW

    • Thunder1

      Well done, Walter. The guy the Nucks jumped over Tkachuk to get got sent back to junior yesterday. He wasn’t even close to getting a nine-game show me spot!

      • Neddd

        He’s a defenceman who typically take longer to develop so really that’s not surprising at all.

        Looks like Tkachuk has been playing the preseason with a chip on his shoulder perhaps because he was passed over at the draft. Will be interesting to see if he can maintain that intensity once the competition improves to NHL level.

      • piscera.infada

        In fairness–and I should state at the outset that I don’t like the Canucks, nor did I like Juolevi as a draft prospect–the kid is a defenseman. This is pretty much par for the course with young defensemen. Whether they are drafted high or not is largely immaterial. Ekblad and the like are the outliers.

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        That’s not much of an assessment. Play him against junior age prospects in the Young Stars, he looks good. Play him against mostly AHL teams in the pre-season he disappeared. How would he do against AHL talent or NHL talent?

  • freethe flames

    The other thing about Tkachuk is he has been placed in role and with players where he can succeed. I wonder how he would have performed if he had been placed on a line with Stajan and Chiasson? The Flames did the right thing by him. I just hope that they do the right thing with other prospects as well. There is no need to play Shinkaruk with Stajan/Chiasson. But being the LW with Backs would be good for his development,

    The same goes for the Farm team. Don’t put Poirier or Mangaipane with the 4th liners. Let them work out their games playing with the best we have to play them with at that level. If after an extended look they are struggling then you know that they need to be seen in a different light.

  • Backburner

    I know it’s only pre-season. But Tkachuk looks like he’s getting more confident the more he plays.

    I think he might make the team this year, that spot on LW next to Bennett just seems to be made for him.

    I must say I was expecting a little bit more from Shinkaruk. He looked really good in his 7 games at the end of last season..

    I hope he can pick it up a little.

  • jakethesnail

    It was Tkachuk that made his Junior line mates look better, not the other way around….

    “The players that have NHL jobs nailed down looked good: Tkachuk, Bennett, Brouwer…”

    I agree Ryan – that Tkachuk has made the opening day lineup!

    Flames should have tried Chiasson with Johnny and Monny in pre-season, but what the hell that got derailed big time! When Johnny is signed look for Ferland on the right side of that line…

    • piscera.infada

      When Johnny is signed look for Ferland on the right side of that line…

      As he should be. I’m hoping Gulutzan has enough restraint to give it time to work as well.

  • redwhiteblack

    We are getting there. Gaps currently for sure but looking one year out things are way better.
    Tkachuk could be on the top line. Could be hands down best young line in hockey.

    Bennett centering the second line looks great. Hopefully one of the young guys establishes himself as a top six winger beside him, or maybe it’s Pribyl. All we need then is one more winger in a trade or as a FA. Foundation of 2 great lines.

    Backs, Frolic and one more winger than drives play and you have a good 3rd line that helps you win.

    Hopefully Jankowski can center the 4th line and he gets 2 wingers who can play a great shut down style while potting 20-30 pts each.

    If BT can build smart around the foundation we have we could see the Flames of the 80’s back.

  • Sobueno

    Man, how awesome would it be if Tkachuk/Bennett usurped Johnny/Monahan for that top line spot based on performance? Not necessarily this season, but I could see it happen eventually. Imagine Johnny and Monahan then playing against the lesser lights. That’s a pretty deadly 1st and 2nd line combo down the road. Could get expensive, but so worth it!

  • mattyc

    Gotta say, watching the game last night, I was not very impressed with the bottom half of our D. In particular, Jokipakka, who was out of position a bunch, and doesn’t have the footspeed to get back.

    Our PP was also pretty unimpressive, but i’ll give them a pass because it’s so early in the season. There was almost no movement, and just big shots from the perimeter. (Of course, minus the Tkachuk goal scored on a PP rush).

    In other notes: I thought Bennett line (Bennett in particular) looked good, as did Frolik/Backlund. The top 3D were also pretty good, though real rusty in the first period. Was also surprised to see how much ice Vey got, though he looked OK.

    • everton fc

      That’s the big “dig” on Jokipaaka – foot speed. Engelland – yes, Engelland – saved him a few times. That’s saying something. Jokipaaka is a 5/6 pairing – with a guy like Kulak, who skates well, he’s better suited.

      Vey did look okay w/Ferland and Shinkaruk at times. Agreed. Chiasson has 4 shots. He needs to shoot more, so this is good, I suppose…

      But I am under-whelmed at our starting lineup, even w/Gaudreau. A lot depending on young guys and “also rans” (Chiasson, Stajan, Bouma, Vey, Freddie H., Jokipaaka, Engelland, Wideman…)

      • Derzie

        I see people are trashing reality. We do not have a very deep or good team right now. If our goal is to win, we are in tough to make the playoffs with this bunch. I’m also worried about the new coaching style. Goal production has been abysmal as have scoring chances. It is pre-season but relative to other teams in the pre-season, we are way below average. BT is not trending well right now. The home runs (Hamilton, Elliott) are being diminished by the bad stuff (depth, Johnny)

    • freethe flames

      The power play should get significantly better when Johnny signs and Monny plays.(it will be interesting to see plays the RW) If you can play either Monny’s line or Bennette’s line against the other teams second tier PK I believe production will go up.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    Just a question. Has Calgary Flame fans already anointed Bennett as the starting number 2 centre?
    Should Bennett have that pressure already early in his career, considering he hasn’t played that much in that position?

    • Brent G.

      It depends on how you determine a 2nd line. I would suspect Backlund is going to be taking on the other teams best, leaving Bennett to take the high ground. Realistically I think that makes Bennett the 3rd line center for this season.

      Hopefully their relative minutes played/game are about the same.

    • Baalzamon

      That depends on what you consider the second line. That certainly seems to be the way Gulutzan is leaning, considering how much ice time Bennett and company have been getting in the preseason. Ultimately, I don’t think they will play more at even strength than the Backlund line does, though.

      The top nine is comparatively interchangeable, really. Bennett is the #2 center in the sense that he’s centering the second offensive line. The Flames look as though they’re going with two offensive and two defensive lines. Monahan is #1 offense, Backlund is #1 defense.

      • freethe flames

        I would not call them interchangeable rather all capable of doing their assigned tasks. Each of these 3 lines will see different zone starts especially to start the season. Both the Monny and Backs line will see a far bit of Dzone starts while the Monny and Bennett line will get most of the teams Ozone starts. Backs line will likely be expected to drive possession from the Dzone while the other two lines will be expected to maintain possession and create more offense. The 4th line being the other forwards whomever they may be will see limited Ozone time and only so much Dzone starts and should get mostly neutral ice starts with the purpose of trying get some Ozone possession and not be scored on.

        If Bennett’s line proves to be move defensively capable and he grows into the position I expect the responsibilities to grow as well. It would not surprise me to see his line taking on additional DZone starts by mid season.

    • Backburner

      I don’t think there will be much pressure at all. Centre is Bennett’s natural position, and the new coach (and players) have all been pretty vocal about how confident they are in him.