After getting only one practice in before their first preseason game against the Bruins – a 4-3 shootout loss – the Flames had a few days to get some more work in, amidst partaking in tourist-y activities because, hey, they’re in China, why not?
With Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Brett Kulak, and Michael Stone all sitting – allowing every single player brought on the trip to get at least a game in – the Flames worked to even the series, but it wasn’t to be, as the Bruins took the second game by a score of 3-1.
The Bruins opened the scoring late in the first period, as Ryan Donato carried the puck down the ice before sliding it back to Jake DeBrusk, who snuck behind the Flames’ defenders – Travis Hamonic, Noah Hanifin, and a backchecking James Neal – to elevate the puck on Mike Smith. This came after a couple of pretty solid Smith saves, however, who was seeing his first game action since the previous season. That included two penalty kills he had to fend off, after a (kind of weak) Morgan Klimchuk boarding call, as well as Sean Monahan tripping a Bruin right off the faceoff. Shots after one were 7-3 for the Bruins.
Mike Smith's save on the PK pic.twitter.com/mEPxo1Yck5
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) September 19, 2018
The Flames got their first powerplay of the game with just a few seconds left in the first period, as Chris Wagner went off for interference. They failed to capitalize; however, they spent much of the second period on the attack, with a number of solid scoring opportunities coming as a result of chances generated both by extensive cycling, as well as off the rush. Neal had a couple of chances in alone, Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik were active on the cycle, TJ Brodie had a chance jumping in the rush set up by Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau had a chance to finish off a cycle, as well.
However, it was Monahan who broke the goose egg for the Flames. Called for interference with just over two minutes to go in the second, the Flames prevented the Bruins from getting in any dangerous looks on the penalty kill. Then, with mere seconds to go in the period, Monahan jumped out of the box, calling for the puck. Mark Jankowski got it to him, and Monahan made no mistake, wristing it over Tuukka Rask. Shots were 12-5 for the Flames in the second.
Out of the box, into the net pic.twitter.com/9h2TL6hMoo
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) September 19, 2018
DeBrusk got the lead back for the Bruins early into the third. Smith, unable to handle the puck coming out of the net, wasn’t able to get himself quite set returning to his crease. It was all DeBrusk needed, as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was able to chip the puck back above the red line, and a swooping DeBrusk easily beat Smith short side on a goal he’d likely want to have back.
Though the Flames had several powerplays in the third, including a nine-second five-on-three, they couldn’t get anything really going with the man advantage (towards the end, the Bruins might have had more chances in knocking the puck out of the zone, honestly). An empty net goal for Kevan Miller with just 75 seconds left in the game iced it for the Bruins, who won 3-1.
Why the Flames lost
Despite generating a fair number of chances, the Flames simply had a hard time scoring: partly due to Rask, partly due to things like shooting directly at him, and partly due to another bout of poor luck. They also had themselves to blame, as other than a defensive miscue in the first and the negative side of the Mike Smith Puck-Playing Experience™, they did well in limiting the Bruins’ chances, and Smith himself still had a couple of good saves.
Quite simply: the Bruins were able to capitalize on the Flames’ mistakes more than vice versa.
I’m happy to give this one to Monahan, who scored the Flames’ lone goal of the game, and is looking as deadly as ever now that he’s recovered from all of his various ailments that still saw him have a career season in 2017-18. He’s very, very exciting.
The turning point
The Flames entered the third period with a bit of momentum on their side, Monahan having scored in the dying seconds of the middle frame to tie up the game. Giving up such a preventable goal early in the third didn’t really help. It ended up being the game winner.
This and that
One thing we’ve got to keep in mind with this game is that, even though the Flames have had a few more practices under their belt, this is still a highly abnormal situation. Even though the lineup consists mostly of NHLers, it’s still preseason; everyone has rust and there were still a few key players sitting out.
- Jankowski is making a case to play regularly on the Flames’ penalty kill. Seconds into the Flames’ first kill of the game, he created a shorthanded scoring chance; as another penalty kill expired, he set Monahan up for the Flames’ lone goal of the night.
- Maybe the hands aren’t there quite yet, but you certainly couldn’t fault Sam Bennett for his effort in this game.
- Czarnik wasn’t as noticeable this time around as he was in the first China game, but to be fair, he was really, really noticeable in a good way in the first game. Still, he was consistently working to set up his teammates; the Flames might really have a good bottom six option in him.
- Throw Ryan into the mix, and the Flames’ upcoming bottom six looks a lot more versatile and up tempo than the 2017-18 edition.
- Hanifin can be all over the ice in a good way, and Rasmus Andersson looked pretty good in the ice time he got. Defensive miscues are still there (see: the Bruins’ first goal), but the kids look like they’ll be solid contributors to the backend. And considering the way the defence consistently jumped up into the play and took their own shots, hopefully, there will be more offence from the blue line this season, too.
The Flames do look like they’ll have a lot of speed and skill for an entertaining brand of hockey this coming season. It’s just a matter of putting it all together, but the flashes are definitely there.
The Flames players in China – which, recall, is probably going to be most, if not the entire, opening roster – are pretty much immediately headed back to Calgary. Their next opponent will be jet lag, so they won’t be back in action again until some light work Saturday. Don’t expect to see any of them in a preseason game again until Monday’s affair against the Jets.
Meanwhile, back on this side of the Pacific, Flames prospects and tryouts will be off to Vancouver for an 8 p.m. preseason jaunt against the Canucks.
And soon after that… THIRD JERSEYS.
It's coming. pic.twitter.com/TVGWY7ao32
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 19, 2018