It’s the preseason, but wins are better than losses. Ignoring results entirely, good efforts are infinitely better than bad ones – especially when a team is icing a roster of guys trying to crack a big league roster. The Calgary Flames hosted the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night – more precisely, a cobbled-together group of inexperienced Canucks that didn’t head off to China. After a spirited start, the Flames sagged and ultimately dropped a 5-3 exhibition decision to what amounted to the Utica Comets’ roster.
The Flames were basically two teams in the opening frame. When they were in the offensive zone, they were energetic and played with a lot of jump. When they were defending, they were a bit iffy in their own end.
The home side opened the scoring off a Canucks turnover, as Dillon Dube jumped on an errant pass and fed Tanner Glass for a tap-in out front to make it 1-0. A Dube pass to Rasmus Andersson led to a slap shot tipped by Ryan Lomberg to make it 2-0. The Canucks made it closer, as Anton Rodin scored on a nice sequence which started at the other end of the ice with Jake Virtanen breaking up a Flames 2-on-1. Mark Jankowski made it a two-goal game before the period ended, though, with a beautiful wrist shot from the slot off a great set-up pass from Kris Versteeg. Shots were 7-4 Flames.
The wheels fell off a bit for the Flames in the second. The Canucks killed off a couple penalties to begin the period, then Brock Boeser scored off the rush with a very nice wrister to make it 3-2. Brett Kulak and Matt Bartkowski looked lost on that one. The Canucks pressed later, and Jon Gillies made a dandy save to keep the Flames up by a goal.
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) September 21, 2017
Gillies made a few more nice saves towards the end of the period, but after an initial sprawling save Nikolay Goldobin batted in a loose rebound to tie the game at 3-3. On a late period Canucks power play, Virtanen strolled into the Flames zone off the rush and put a wrist shot over Gillies’ shoulder (short-side) to make it 4-3. Shots were 19-10 Canucks.
Tyler Parsons came into the game to start the third period. The Canucks hung back a bit in the period, but Jalen Chatfield snuck in from the point and back-handed in a rebound to make it 5-3. Shots were 9-7 Flames.
Why The Flames Lost
They weren’t very good in their own end. Here’s the even-strength heat-map (via Natural Stat Trick):
The kids showed some jump, but on the whole there were too many errant passes, over-handled pucks and situations where they went for the overly complicated play instead of the simple one.
The Turning Point
Boeser’s goal in the second period, a dandy where he came into the zone and got a nice shot away, really shouldn’t have happened. But the goal exposed a weakness in the Flames’ defensive coverage – they seemed baffled by how to defend against speed – and the Canucks were off to the races from there.
Let’s go with a collective Red Warrior to the line of Glass, Dube and Lomberg. They were buzzing around whenever they were on the ice.
Mangiapane, Kylington, Jankowski and Gillies also had a few nice moments, though their games as a whole were rather so-so.
(All figures via our friends at Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5-on-5.)
“I think he kept us in there, made some big saves. He made a lot of the first saves, except maybe for one, but you can’t make highlight reel after highlight reel. I think we let him down after the first.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on Jon Gillies’ performance in net.
The Flames (0-3-0) are back at it on Friday evening when they host the Arizona Coyotes.