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What we learned from the Edmonton exhibition game

The Calgary Flames played the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday evening in a game that was utterly and completely devoid of meaning in the traditional sense. Zero points were handed out in the standings and neither team is any closer to raising a Stanley Cup.

So what value did the Flames get out of the undertaking?

Centre shuffling

Sam Bennett spent a chunk of training camp as the third line centre (between Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube) due to Derek Ryan being briefly unavailable. Ryan’s return bumped Bennett down to the fourth line, in a mix that included Mark Jankowski, Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo.

In the third period of Tuesday’s game, Geoff Ward decided to shuffle. Bennett went to the third line at centre. Ryan went to centre the fourth line, between Rinaldo and Rieder. Jankowski was stapled to the bench and got zero shifts in the period.

The result was a very good effort from the bottom six and a look that we’ll probably see replicated on Saturday against Winnipeg.

Goaltending clarity

The stat lines for Calgary’s two goaltenders are pretty clear-cut: Cam Talbot had two goals against and made 19 saves on 21 shots. David Rittich had two goals against and made seven saves on nine shots.

The goals by Edmonton:

  • Kailer Yamamoto burying a rebound in the slot booted out by Talbot (5 on 5).
  • Connor McDavid shelving a pass over top of Talbot, who was covering the bottom part of the net (Oilers PP).
  • Patrick Russell back-handing a rebound past Rittich after he was handcuffed on a weird bounce on a dump-in (5 on 5).
  • McDavid going five-hole on Rittich after a turnover at the blueline left him alone in Calgary’s zone (5 on 5).

Talbot was busier but he was sharper. The Yamamoto rebound wasn’t great, but it was part of a really ugly defensive effort early on by the gents in red. Rittich’s two goals against were understandable, but they also killed a lot of the team’s third period momentum.

Talbot seems like the safe choice to start on Saturday.

Special teams

The Oilers were seen by the Flames coaching staff as a great test for their special teams units due to their sharpness and general similarity to the Jets’ units. Calgary’s PP went 1-for-4 while their PK went 3-for-4.

The PP goal they scored was off a nice rebound generated by an Erik Gustafsson point shot. The PP goal they allowed was off a superb pass by Leon Draisaitl and a nice shot by McDavid. Ward felt post-game that the special teams units looked sharper as the game went on, which probably bodes well going into a series with Winnipeg that undoubtedly will be decided by the slightest of margins.