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Abbotsford vs. Grand Rapids game 1: Double OT heartbreaker

Despite getting 56 shots on net, the Abbotsford Heat fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins in game 1 of their first round matchup.

Markus Granlund led all players with 8 shots on net.
Markus Granlund led all players with 8 shots on net.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

This isn't so much a recap as an assortment of thoughts on how the Heat fared in their first game of the playoffs.

You may remember that the Heat were a contender for the top team in the AHL over much of this past season, until they faded down the stretch - definitely in part due to injuries to both the Flames and the Heat. While we were excited to see so many AHL call ups, the Heat were hurting from it.

Partially as a result they finished fifth in the western conference, and ended up drawing the defending Calder Cup champions, the Red Wings' AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins, in the first round of the playoffs.

They had a stellar showing in their first game, what ended up being a 2-1 double OT loss - the game winning goal coming with just 33 seconds left in the fifth period, a point shot from Ryan Sproul.

Shots on net

The Heat outshot the Griffins 56-41 (35-23 in regulation), and probably deserved a better fate. Their lone goal came in the first period from Brett Olson, assisted by Sven Baertschi and Corban Knight.

Quite a few members of the Heat put up some impressive shot totals:

Markus Granlund led everybody with 8.

Both Blair Jones and Corban Knight had 7.

Sven Baertschi and Ben Street had 6 (Baertschi had 5 in the first period alone).

Corey Locke had 5, and Max Reinhart 4.

Of these seven names, four you could consider prospects: Granlund, Knight, Baertschi, and Reinhart. Together, these four got 25 shots: about 45% of the Heat's total shots on net (this isn't even counting all the missed and blocked chances they had). All four played in the NHL this past season, and all four got at least a point.

That's the value you take out of this game. Among the Heat's strongest performers were young players - Knight is 23, Reinhart 22, Baertschi and Granlund both 21 - and Flames draft picks (except for Knight, whom the Flames acquired for a fourth rounder). While it is in the minors, it's a great sign, especially come playoff time.

Good goaltending

For the Heat's efforts, although they went 0-for-6 on the powerplay - including two separate 5 on 3s and a 5 minute major - it should be said that the goalie they were facing was Petr Mrazek, of bonkers World Juniors fame. In the AHL, he was just behind Joni Ortio in SV%, .924 compared to Ortio's .926.

In the NHL, he, like Ortio, played nine games, but came away with a .927 SV%. With Jonas Gustavsson an upcoming UFA, he could very well be a full-time NHLer next season. So while the Heat should have scored more goals, give credit to the opposing goalie, who did a hell of a job stopping them.

As for Ortio, he received the second star of the game, stopping 39 of 41 shots for a .951 SV% over nearly 100 minutes played. The goalie on the other end had the better performance, but Ortio - another Flames draft pick - certainly performed just as well as his skater counterparts.

Hope for the future

The first round of the AHL playoffs is a best of five, so there's less room for error. Game 2 is tonight at 8 p.m. MT, and there is a chance it could be the final AHL game in Abbotsford. But if the Heat and, more importantly, Flames draft picks play the way they did in the first game, there's a good chance they'll have a better fate.

In the meantime, there's a lot of promise on the farm, and that should translate into legitimate hope for the Flames over the next few seasons.