With veterans in need of shaking off the rust and final spots left to be filled, the Flames played their ninth of nine (geez that's so many!) preseason games. It wasn't anything special to behold - not even close - but it's over. We are free from the preseason. Here's how it unfolded.
A mostly uneventful period was highlighted by a fair share of sloppiness, both on part of the players and the officials. It was the officials who really kicked it off, calling Adam Lowry for a high stick just 1:43 into the game. The problem? It was actually David Jones' stick hitting teammate Raphael Diaz (who still, for some reason, does not have a contract) high.
Tied for the highest paid forward on the team, Jones' spot is probably safe, but that's one way to help the team.
Mark Stuart added to that man advantage, as with 19 seconds remaining in the powerplay, he interfered with Mason Raymond's attempt to drive the puck forward.
So, opening the period with two straight powerplays, including a brief 5 on 3, how many shots would you expect the Flames to have? If you said one, you'd be correct.
It was then the Flames' turn to err, as Jones was called for tripping. His teammates bailed him out - in particular Lance Bouma, who is a shot blocking machine - and he soon redeemed himself.
With Joe Colborne behind one end of the net and Jones at the other, Colborne sneakily dished it off. Ondrej Pavelec, for some reason, remained completely fixated on Colborne, and wasn't even looking when Jones got the puck and quickly advanced and batted it in, putting the Flames up 1-0.
The lead was short lived. For whatever reason, Ladislav Smid nailed TJ Galiardi, hard, and was called for boarding. The Jets controlled their powerplay excellently, and ultimately tied the game when Paul Postma's shot was redirected by the Blake Wheeler camping out right in front of Jonas Hiller.
That was followed up by Adam Pardy (Adam Pardy?!) hitting Brandon Bollig and Bollig not liking it. The two of them fought in a moment that served literally no purpose.
The uninspired frame concluded with Mikael Backlund showing some of his rust, tripping Postma in the offensive zone on a play in which he didn't seem to be paying attention. His teammates bailed him out, and the period ended 1-1, with the Jets outshooting the Flames 8-5.
The Jets kept up their pressure going into the second. Jacob Trouba caught the puck at the blueline and, walking it, he shot on Hiller. Wheeler was once again set in front of the net, and effectively screened Hiller to put the Jets up 2-1.
Feeling the need to up the truculence, Dennis Wideman crosschecked Bryan Little, resulting in a small, short-lived scrum in front of the net. Wideman took the initial cross-checking call, and both he and Little sat for roughing as well, resulting in a powerplay for the Jets. It was killed, but the Jets continued to prove themselves the superior team as they continued driving pressure, forcing Hiller to be sharp on an excellent post-powerplay Mathieu Perreault chance.
Things weren't helped with one of the Jets' top lines on the ice with the Flames' fourth. Bollig, Bouma, and Brian McGrattan were predictably unable to handle the likes of Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, and the Flames were only able to escape the mess they found themselves in when the Jets iced the puck.
Both teams exchanged powerplays - Mark Giordano for interference and Pardy for holding - before the period ended. The Jets continued to outshoot the Flames 15-10, the superior team.
The Jets continued to be the superior team to kick off the third, as just over two minutes in, Evander Kane redirected a quick shot past Hiller, increasing the Jets' lead 3-1. That kind of pressure kept up as soon after, Galiardi and Jim Slater found themselves on a 2 on 1, but fortunately for the Flames, Slater didn't get as much on the shot as he would have liked, and Hiller stopped him.
The Flames were largely unable to get set up or create any kind of pressure, and mostly found themselves at the Jets' mercy.
It took over half the period for the penalties to break out, as Matt Stajan and Andrew Ladd both got two for roughing in a scrum that was the result of Stajan taking a hit none of the Flames liked. It brought a small bit of ump to the Flames, as Colborne and Jiri Hudler connected for a decent chance 4 on 4, but were unable to capitalize.
Things went from bad to worse when Backlund drilled Tobias Enstrom into the boards, pushing him from behind. Somehow, Backlund only received two minutes for the call, and Enstrom left the ice.
The penalty was killed but the chippiness wasn't quiet over. Kane was called for charging on Stajan, and another scrum broke out (one Backlund was involved in as well). Kane was alone in the box to put the Flames up a man, although both Backlund and Grant Clitsome were given game misconducts. With just over two minutes left in the period, Bob Hartley pulled Hiller to give the Flames a 6 on 4 attack. It was not to be, however, as Little capitalized on the empty netter.
In a reverse of the previous game, the Jets defeated the Flames 4-1, outshooting them 25-18.
- Well, the Jets were just plain better. They outplayed the Flames the entire game, Jones' one little goal aside. Just about everyone wearing red had a negative corsi rating. Jones was actually the one positive, both overall (+4) and at even strength (+1), although Josh Jooris managed to finish even at evens.
- Surprised that Jones managed to do that? Don't be. He played just 10:48, the lowest out of all non-fourth line forwards (and less than both Jooris and Bouma as well). Limited minutes can result in that. So, what's the deal there - why so little time for Jones? He was injured, but Backlund missed the entire preseason, and he played the most out of all forwards (18:12).
- Speaking of Backlund, he's proof as to why preseason is necessary. Probably not nine games - nine games was really excessive - but some. He was a step behind, as particularly evidenced by his sloppy, and in Enstrom's case, outright dangerous penalties. Don't want to see that in general, but you especially don't want that in the regular season. It was a really, really bad hit, but when Backlund takes to the ice for his first regular season game, at least he'll have gotten some game time out of the way.
- McGrattan (7:30) and Bollig (8:35) played the least out of all Flames tonight. They were on the ice for a goal against. They had literally no impact on the game, and things got chippy and scrummy despite their presence (and Bollig's own inane, personal fight). They'll both probably be on the team, though. Why?
Here's something to look at in line with one of the Flames hopefuls:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a> really want to gauge versatility of RW Josh Jooris. Started on off-wing, now centre between McGrattan and Bollig on fourth line.</p>— Wes Gilbertson (@SUNGilbertson) <a href="https://twitter.com/SUNGilbertson/status/518581246910529536">October 5, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Jooris played for 12:29, including 3:49 of penalty kill time. He was one of the least played Flames, though, so will that be enough?
- Deryk Engelland was a late scratch to this game, resulting in Giordano drawing in. Smid and Wideman were the big men on defence, while Giordano and Brodie played the least. That put Kris Russell and Diaz right in the middle. So. Is Diaz signed yet...?
- You know what? I liked Galiardi tonight.
Alright! That's it. That's all. No more preseason. The Flames will soon make their final cuts, and the next time we see them play, it'll be the season opener. Opening day. Wednesday. October 8. 8 p.m. MT. Sportsnet, following the opening Habs at Leafs game. The second full year of the rebuild will finally be underway - let's see who steps up and makes a case to be a part of the Flames' future.