The Calgary Flames closed out their exhibition calendar with a date with the Winnipeg Jets at the Scotiabank Saddledome. After a few sub-par efforts, the Flames flipped the proverbial switch and really looked like the team many expected to see this year – and on Oct. 4 – in a 3-2 shootout win over the Jets.
The warm-up games are over. The games count for real starting on Wednesday.
This was a fun game to watch, even by regular season standards.
The first was pretty even. The Flames got a lot of pressure on their forecheck, creating a few turnovers and some scoring chances. They also had an early power play where the top unit – Gaudreau, Monahan, Versteeg, Ferland and Brodie – had roughly 1:24 of continuous movement, chances and pressure. Late in the period, their early efforts paid off. A couple nice entries off the rush created a pair of slashing calls, giving the Flames a lengthy five-on-three. Andrew Copp blocked and shot and stayed down, giving the Flames a de facto five-on-two, which they cashed in on with some nice passing ending with a tap-in for Versteeg to make it 1-0 with 2.1 seconds left in the period. Shots were 15-10 Flames (scoring chances were 5-5).
The Flames killed off an early five-on-three disadvantage in the second – Mike Smith was superb on this sequence. However, on a subsequent four-on-four sequence Patrik Laine dangled around several Flames and went top-corner on Smith to tie the game. Calgary had a few chances late, primarily driven by Sam Bennett creating havoc in the Jets zone, but they couldn’t bury anything. Shots were 14-8 Winnipeg (scoring chances were 10-6 Flames).
The home side went up early in the third, as Mikae Backlund finished off a nice power play passing sequence off the rush and beat Steve Mason five-hole to make it 2-1. The Flames held the lead for awhile, but another five-on-three power play for the Jets saw a Flames defender break their stick, giving Laine a million years and a ton of space and, boom, it was 2-2 off a cannon of a shot. Shots were 14-6 Winnipeg (scoring chances were 7-2 Winnipeg).
And so it was off to preseason overtime, where we had a few more penalties. Nothing was solved in the extra five minutes, so we had a shootout. Sean Monahan scored and the Flames eked out a 3-2 victory.
Why The Flames Won
Calgary’s special teams were better than Winnipeg’s, and their goaltender was, too.
The Turning Point
It’s easy to say the Monahan shootout goal, but you could give it to any number of nice saves by Smith in the final period. He was in excellent form tonight.
Gotta go with Smith, who made 39 saves and looked calm, cool and collected – even on a pair of five-on-threes.
Realistically, though, the entire team was a lot better than they had been in the previous snoozers. They seemed engaged, physically and mentally, and really played a pretty solid 60 minutes.
(All figures via our friends at Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5-on-5.)
This and That
Jankowski and Brouwer swapped spots in the third, with Bennett moving to the left wing and Jankowski playing up the middle.
Interesting line juggle here in the 3rd. Versteeg-Jankowski-Bennett skating as a line. Glass-Lazar-Brouwer the 4th line. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) October 1, 2017
According to head coach Glen Gulutzan, it was a planned swap: “Depending on how the game was going, we wanted to get him as many reps as we could with some different guys and some different looks. Everybody knows that he’s had a strong camp so we wanted to get him as many looks as we could.”
By my count, there were roughly 12 broken sticks for the Flames tonight.
“The power play’s like anything else. You get a couple to go, you build, you get confidence, and it was nice to get two tonight.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s special teams performance tonight.
Adam Ruzicka had two goals in 6-2 Sarnia win.
Matthew Phillips had three assists in a 4-3 Victoria win.
Juuso Valimaki had two assists in Tri-City’s late game.
The Flames are off tomorrow. They have to cut down their roster to 23 players by 3 p.m. MT on Tuesday. And then? The 2017-18 NHL season begins on Wednesday night when the Flames play the Edmonton Oilers.