One last game in the Saddledome before the regular season. It took a little while for the game to really kick off, but once it did, the Flames - and the kids in particular - definitely gave the home crowd quite a show.
The Flames got off to a good start, and outshot the Jets 10-7 throughout the opening frame. That part is good. The part that's bad? It was mostly thanks to the powerplay, as the Jets fared much better in even strength.
It all started off when early on, Josh Jooris - who is still in the Flames' main camp! - drew a penalty when Mark Stuart interfered with him, sending him crashing into the Jets' goalpost. Fortunately, Jooris was fine, and it gave the Flames two minutes with a man advantage. During that time Sven Baertschi and Sam Bennett showed off just what they can do (read: be very, very good), but were unable to capitalize.
The Flames were back on the powerplay almost right away when TJ Brodie found Jiri Hudler up the middle, sneaking him a pass to send Hudler on a mini breakaway. While Hudler was able to get a shot off (he hit the post), Keaton Ellerby hooked him, resulting in another powerplay. On this one it was Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan showing their stuff, but they, too, were unable to capitalize. The Jets turned the tables on the Flames throughout the second powerplay, generating chances of their own on a very aggressive penalty kill, in which it didn't seem too difficult to get by Dennis Wideman manning the blueline.
The powerplay died out with the Flames back in the offensive zone, as Baertschi found Curtis Glencross for a great scoring chance, but Michael Hutchinson was there to keep the game scoreless.
Hutchinson wasn't the only goalie to be tested, though. With the powerplays over and the Jets having found their legs at even strength, Karri Ramo was called upon to perform, and perform he did. He squared himself off perfectly for a Mark Scheifele shot, and had to hold strong as the Jets started to dominate. Devin Setoguchi had some good fight to bring the puck back into the Jets' zone, but he couldn't do it all on his own, and Ramo had to be ready once again when both Bennett and Gaudreau failed on clearing attempts.
The Jets got their first powerplay when Joe Colborne high sticked Eric Tangradi in the neutral zone, whacking him in the visor as he missed lifting the stick. Winnipeg was unable to complete their powerplay, however, as Scheifele was called for tripping. Colborne came back out on the ice and nearly redeemed himself, using his newfound strength to push to the net and set up Hudler, who just missed on his second golden chance of the game.
Once the game was back to even strength, however, the Jets took over again. Deryk Engelland did his best to relieve pressure, but while he was able to briefly get it out of the defensive zone, he couldn't carry it into the offensive zone, and the Jets were able to retrieve it. Ramo was once again called upon to keep the game scoreless, as the first period ended with the Flames up in powerplays, but the Jets performing better overall.
While the first period had a lot of action, the second, not so much. Michael Frolik unknowingly set the tone for the entire frame. The Jets were gifted with a quick 2-on-0 breakout, and while Frolik managed to make Ramo bite, he missed a wide open net and failed to open the scoring.
The Flames seemed to get their feet back under them when Adam Lowry tripped Matt Stajan in the neutral zone, but nope: after about 30 seconds of a great start to the powerplay, the Jets got the puck out of the zone, and the Flames were unable to bring it back in and get set up again. Mark Giordano had two good chances to score, but fanned both times.
Remember when there were 17 shots on net in the first period? It took nearly half the second for someone to put the puck on net, but it finally happened. From far out, Monahan shot the puck, and it deflected off Grant Clitsome and in past Hutchinson, putting the Flames up 1-0. That was the first shot on net of the second period. Yup.
Jooris then went to the box, called for a trip on Mathieu Perreault - who was excellent for the Jets - even though what it really was was a missed hit. The Flames seemed to have a better penalty kill than powerplay, having an easier time entering the Jets zone than before.
The penalty was killed, and it took the Jets 13 minutes into the frame to get a shot on net. It was not a good period. Things soon improved for Winnipeg, however, as their first round draft choice, Nikolaj Ehlers, had a beautiful feed to Scheifele from right within the trapezoid. Scheifele had three Flames around him, but nobody on him as he received the pass and quickly buried it fivehole on Ramo, through no fault of the Finnish netminder, to tie the game at 1.
The period ended with the total shots 15-13 for the Flames, most of the action coming within the final few minutes.
It didn't take much to improve on the second, but the Flames did it immediately in the third period. Colborne's faceoff win in the offensive zone resulted immediately in a Giordano shot, leading to a Flames powerplay as Baertschi drove the net and Clitsome hauled him down. While the Flames weren't able to score on the powerplay, that would come soon after.
Remember why we call him Johnny Hockey? Gaudreau fought his way through three Jets, spinning around on the boards to slide the puck right up to Jooris. Jooris drove the net and immediately slid it farside past Hutchinson to put the Flames up 2-1.
The Flames were feeling it. Immediately after, Wideman passed it up to Paul Byron, who left it for Monahan. Monahan drove into the puck, sniping it under the crossbar with an absolute hell of a shot to put the Flames up 3-1. Those two goals took only 40 seconds.
Things only got worse for the Jets. Perreault was called for a board on Ladislav Smid, and while the Jets were able to kill the powerplay, they were about to go down even more. Bennett and Gaudreau absolutely dazzled on the down-low cycle, twisting and turning various Jets around before dishing it off to Jooris, who was standing right in front of the net. Jooris immediately buried it for this second of the night, putting the Flames up 4-1.
The Jets couldn't handle being scored on so much, and at this point, the refs flat out stopped doing their jobs. Scheifele practically mauled Colborne, only to not get called. The Flames sent Brian McGrattan out to counter, but things were pretty heated by this point.
Finally, 13 minutes into the frame, the Jets got their first shot on net when Brodie was called for holding on Scheifele. He got the shot off anyway, and Ramo had to be sharp to keep it from going in. On the ensuing powerplay, the Jets continued to express their frustration through less than adult means, and just seven seconds into the powerplay both Monahan and Perreault were sent off for coincidental roughing.
With Ramo playing well and the penalty killed, McGrattan then took a roughing call, to help in some way. The Flames successfully killed his penalty, although there was a close scare when Chris Thorburn's shot found its way through several bodies, only to bounce off the post.
Things were still heated as the game was winding down, the Jets still down by three in the final minutes. Finally, Baertschi decided he'd had enough and started tossing Jim Slater around. He was quickly called for a penalty, and McGrattan immediately followed up with another one when he called out the refs. McGrattan was given a game misconduct as the Jets were given two full minutes of a 5 on 3 to close out the game.
Thorburn scored on the double man advantage, but at this point, it didn't really matter. Bennett ended the game by driving in alone for a shot on net, one Hutchinson stopped (which was actually a common theme for the 18-year-old throughout). The final score was 4-2 Flames, with the Flames' three goal outburst early in the third sealing it.
Your three stars were all worthy candidates:
- Sean Monahan
- Johnny Gaudreau
- Josh Jooris
- Gaudreau is amazing. Bennett is amazing. The two together are amazing, so be incredibly excited for them. In the future, that is. While Gaudreau should flat out make the team this year, Bennett needs another year in junior. He clearly has the skill, there's no denying that, and he's so, so much fun to watch. But several times tonight, he pulled away, only to get hauled down. Bennett physically isn't where Monahan was a year ago. He's going to be so good, but he's not ready just quite yet. In a year? Ooh yeah, that's gonna be fun.
- Speaking of strength: Colborne continues to impress, and Baertschi is a lot more physical. Both will drive to the net. Baertschi's physicality and fearlessness even resulted in the penalty that kicked off the Flames' excellent third period. It also resulted in him taking a penalty, but the game was pretty much over by that point.
- The refs need to do their jobs. Colborne was straight up mauled and there was no call. Gaudreau was hauled down at least twice - once very blatantly obviously - and the refs didn't call a thing. No, don't give special treatment to a player just because he's small, but they were legitimate penalties against Gaudreau. As for the Colborne thing, the refs let that get out of control until they started calling the Flames, of all teams. Not good.
- And that leads me to this point... What's the point of McGrattan? Okay, I know the point: he's there to protect the kids. It makes sense that he was largely on the bench until the Jets got pissy and started abusing the Flames. Here's what I DON'T get: if McGrattan is there to protect the kids, why is Monahan taking a roughing penalty before him? Why is Baertschi tossing around a guy all on his own with McGrattan right there?
- That's the problem with goons. They don't prevent anything, otherwise we wouldn't have seen that kind of garbage from the Jets when they went down by three. And when the nastiness started, McGrattan wasn't the only Flame out there retaliating. All he really accomplished tonight was taking up a roster spot, and I guess he did some yelling. But the damage was done. In the preseason? Fine, whatever. When McGrattan is taking that roster spot in the regular season to ultimately accomplish nothing? Nope.
- Back on the nice side of things: um, wow, Jooris. He's going to be tough to send down. Shades of Lance Bouma in being exactly what you want from a bottom six guy: right place, right time, all times. Hits. Generates shots on net. Put him with two skill guys, and he can't necessarily keep up with them, but he knows how to make himself useful. Good thing the Flames traded for Brandon Bollig, who is signed for three years and is older-- No, wait. The opposite of a good thing. Bad thing. That was a bad thing to do.
- The defencemen's minutes were pretty spread out, except Brodie and Giordano played less because, well, preseason. If these are the six we see throughout the regular season, then here's a good idea on how they're used: Russell, Giordano, Wideman, and Brodie all saw a lot of powerplay time, while Smid and Engelland mostly saw penalty kill time.
- Fancy stats at even strength weren't too kind to the Flames tonight. They fell behind initially, but a stellar opening to the third period pretty much settled the entire game. Russell particularly stands out with a +5, and he was killing it all night. Monahan looks seriously good as well, and of course, Gaudreau. The Flames may not be good this season, but they'll have a number of players who will be fun to watch.
- Ramo wasn't as busy at Hutchinson, but he played well, and kept his team in it early on. The battle for the starter's role is going to be really, really close. The Flames may very well have a good goaltending tandem this year.
- One final note: this is the second home game in a row in which Gaudreau has been named a star. He has to jump to throw his stick over the glass. He's really, really good at hockey of course, but oh man, isn't that just adorable? I don't mean that to be patronizing. I'm shorter than him. But it's adorable.
That just about wraps up the preseason. There's just one game to go, this time in Winnipeg to take on these very same Jets (who will hopefully have cooled down by then). That game is Saturday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. MT. After that, we'll be seeing our opening night roster very soon. Exciting times!