Welcome back, hockey! Again! After closing out the Penticton tournament with a 2-1 record, the Flames prospects were joined by the veterans to open the preseason. With a superior group playing at home in Calgary, and a lesser group up north in Edmonton, the two Alberta teams played simultaneous split squad games to kick off their preseasons.
While they didn't score, the Flames came out flying to start the first period of Saddledome hockey. They controlled the play throughout the period to the tune of outshooting the Oilers 14-1.
Yup, 14-1. Welcome to the Calgary Flames, Jonas Hiller: you're probably going to see more shots than that, so enjoy it while you can.
The bad news for the Flames was that while they had three powerplay opportunities, including a brief 5 on 3, they were unable to capitalize. However, it wasn't for a lack of trying (see: shots totals), and Ryan Culkin in particular was buzzing around the net, including ringing one just off the post and out.
Culkin wasn't the only one buzzing, as Sean Monahan showed just how badly he wanted to get back at it throughout the period. He had four of the Flames' 14 shots, and was consistently a factor whenever he stepped on the ice.
While the Flames were unable to capitalize in the first period, the second was immediately kinder. Right at the start, Joe Colborne drew a hooking penalty, giving the Flames their fourth powerplay of the game. This time, it didn't take long to get on the board. A nice cross ice feed from Max Reinhart - who is among the group of prospects with a chance to start the season in the NHL - was cleanly received by TJ Brodie at the top of the circle. He immediately wired it home past Victor Fasth, putting the Flames up 1-0.
Brett Kulak took the Flames' first, and only, penalty of the game. The Oilers got a shot on net. The penalty was killed, because you should kind of aim to generate more than one shot on net.
Seriously, the shots were 19-2 for the Flames. Hiller, somehow, stayed awake.
And it's a good thing he did, because as the period drew to a close, the Oilers finally started to put pressure on the Flames. They were able to get six additional shots on net within a span of just a few minutes, forcing Hiller to, at long last, make saves. And make saves he did, as the Flames' projected #1 in net held off the last minute attacks to preserve the 1-0 lead.
With a grand total of eight saves, Hiller's night was done, as almost-certainly-going-to-be-the-backup-AHL-goalie Brad Thiessen stepped in. Unlike with Hiller, he was immediately faced by activity. Matt Hendricks took a penalty for goalie interference throughout it, but Thiessen held strong when the Oilers finally came out.
Monahan, Jiri Hudler, and Mark Giordano combined for a great scoring chance, all started by Monahan's carry into the zone. Former Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit, however, was able to follow it, and ultimately stop Hudler's shot.
As the game was winding down, Garnet Hathaway - camp invite and signed-to-an-AHL-contract Hathaway, kid-who-has-seriously-impressed-since-prospects-camp Hathaway - laid out Boyd Gordon with a massive hit. Immediately after, Corban Knight had a shot that went off the post, crossbar, and out. It was reviewed, but ultimately, no goal was scored, and the Flames remained up 1-0 late in the third period.
Just as the period was ending, Nail Yakupov hit Devin Setoguchi - the Taber native who was playing his first home game in the Saddledome - in a knee-on-knee collision. Setoguchi went down, but was eventually able to get back up and walk down the tunnel on his own, albeit gingerly.
That was all she wrote for the Flames' first game in the Saddledome as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The shots were 28-16 for the Flames, with Hiller and Thiessen making eight saves each to share the shutout.
With their superior lineup dressed, it didn't take the Oilers too long to open the scoring. Just 1:28 in, Leon Draisaitl started showing off as he passed the puck from the outer edge through to Marc-Olivier Roy, and Roy buried it past Joni Ortio to put the Oilers up 1-0.
Curtis Glencross worked to counter this. He was stopped on a breakaway, but when the Oilers were called for too many men, he would score the equalizer. Glencross got his stick on Kris Russell's shot from the point, and the puck dribbled past Ben Scrivens and in to tie it all up at 1.
The Oilers would reclaim the lead soon after. Benoit Pouliot beat Markus Granlund - one of the Flames' top prospects, and someone who has a legitimate shot at making the team out of camp - on the outside and set up Justin Schultz, who scored to make it 2-1. Schultz would nearly score again after, but was unable to capitalize on a wide open net, courtesy of Ortio overcommitting to the Oiler on the other side.
Ladislav Smid gave the Oilers their first powerplay, but they were unable to score; instead, Paul Byron - you may remember him, small, gritty, and fast - took the puck shorthanded, and generated a scoring chance of his own.
With the penalty killed, Glencross nearly evened up the score once again as Dennis Wideman passed to him, but he just missed.
The period ended with the Flames going back on the powerplay, down by a goal.
Despite having a powerplay, the Flames didn't have the best start to the period, as the Oilers controlled the puck early on. The penalty was killed, and although Taylor Hall gave them another chance soon after by taking an interference penalty, that one, too, was killed.
Smid decided it was once again the Flames' turn to take a penalty, but this time, it was costly. With former Calgary Hitman Greg Chase screening the net, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the insurance goal for the Oilers, putting them up 3-1.
The game got a bit more truculent after that, as Mathieu Tousignant, who is signed to just an AHL contract, initiated a scrum in front of the Oilers net, drawing the ires of Andrew Ference, Oscar Klefbom, and Will Acton.
Glencross, once again, was driving the net and nearly scoring; this time, he was foiled by Scrivens' stick, right on the goal line.
The period ended with Bill Arnold sitting for tripping. As the seconds ticked down on both the penalty kill and period, Ortio faced a barrage of shots, but held strong, keeping the score at 3-1. The Flames led in shots at this point, 15-14.
If we were following the script, then Mason McDonald should have gotten to play this period. However, it was Ortio back out to continue on from his stellar finish of the second period.
There was a bit more of the kids this period, as Granlund, Sven Baertschi, and Byron all worked to generate scoring chances, along with Glencross. Glencross in particular had at least another shift in the third in which he was singlehandedly directing play throughout the offensive zone.
The period ended with another Arnold penalty, this time for hooking. Down two goals, the Flames - and Byron in particular - were especially aggressive on this penalty kill, generating shots and fighting the Oilers every step of the way. Alas, it was not meant to be, and the Oilers' superior squad defeated the Flames' lesser by a score of 3-1. The Flames were in it throughout the game, however, as they were only outshot 24-22.
- Courtesy of @theninjagreg, we have Corsi stats for the game in Calgary! So, who was the best corsi player of the night? Somehow, at even strength, the Oilers' David Musil finished a +11, but Monahan was right behind him at +10. In all situations, Monahan killed it at +15, along with Setoguchi, also a +15, and Johnny Gaudreau, who came in at +14.
- Monahan looked good out there. Really, really good. He earned the first star of the game, and rightfully so. He's added muscle over the summer, and really looks like someone determined to not fall into a sophomore slump. Monahan was the benefactor of a high shooting percentage last season, but if he can keep up this kind of performance - and against teams better than the Oilers' B-squad - then he just might be someone to really reckon with.
- Morgan Klimchuk is a pretty fast kid. He was able to get around the opposition and drive the net due to his speed alone. He still needs some time to put it together, but he showed some really nice stuff out there, and another year in junior will probably help him out before he graduates to the professional leagues. He had a late birthday for a 2013 draftee, so he's still young, but he's got the speed.
- Culkin got some good offensive chances, but so did the guy the Flames drafted ahead of him, Kulak. Kulak got some time with Giordano on the powerplay, and didn't look out of place. He'll be entering his first professional season.
- Corsi stats from Edmonton! Pouliot and Draisaitl were kings at even strength with +10, but David Wolf came in not far behind at +9 for the Flames. Most of the Flames, however, were in the red. Wolf was a +10 overall, one of the few Flames' pluses. It isn't surprising that the Flames fared poorly in Edmonton - their team was much weaker - but Wolf doing so well certainly is interesting.
- Ultimately, though, for the Flames, it was Glencross who was king. He probably generated the most scoring chances out of everyone on the Flames, and could have had a hat trick tonight. You can tell he wants to have a really good season after last year's injury-riddled disaster/is in a contract year and would like to get paid.
- Byron, meanwhile, is a tenacious little energizer bunny. He was aggressive all night, particularly on the penalty kill. While Klimchuk has speed, Byron has figured out how to make good use of it. The Flames gave him a small one-year deal to prove himself after last season's success, and he's off to a good start on justifying his presence in a Flames jersey.
- Granlund got burned once, but was solid otherwise. He and Baertschi combined a few times to generate scoring chances, particularly later in the game. Baertschi - Granlund - Byron was also the first line sent out on powerplays. Granlund is probably a bit ahead at this point, as Baertschi had some flashes, but ultimately, was unable to produce, and got stymied more than the others.
- Ortio was shaky to start, but as the game went on, he got much better. As mentioned up above, he performed excellently as the second period drew to a close, and probably earned his bid to finish off the game on that performance. Nothing else got past him the rest of the night. He'll likely have a full year in the AHL to work out his kinks, but this is just the start of the season, after all.
It's just practices and scrimmages for the Flames over the next two days. They'll be back in action on Wednesday, Sept. 24 to take part in their third pre-season game, this one a Kraft Hockeyville appearance against the newly minted Arizona Coyotes. Puck drop will be at 5 p.m. MT - see you then!