Hey, it's kinda hockey season again! Tonight, the Flames began their season, as they usually do, against the Oilers in a split squad game. The Calgary edition of tonight's game featured a superior Flames roster, but the result was still not favourable. The Oilers took the game 3-1 after many penalties and questionable coaching decisions. Alas, it is only preseason.
Gregory Chase renewed the hostilities of the Battle of Alberta early in this meaningless game, cross-checking Emile Poirier about a minute into the game. Michael Ferland took exception to that, and it looked like we would have our first line brawl/Bob Hartley fine of 2015-16, but only Chase went to the box.
Icing the usual suspects plus golden boy Dougie Hamilton, the Flames looked explosive in the initial moments of the 5-on-4. Mark Giordano nearly put the Flames up early during a goalmouth scramble, but upon further review, it appeared that Gio kicked it in. Still 0-0.
The second unit, comprised of Mason Raymond, Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik, TJ Brodie, and Jakub Nakladal looked just as impressive as the first. Nakladal stood out to me, blasting shots (sans accuracy) at Ben Scrivens and being able to deny the Oilers a chance to clear. However still no goals, and the powerplay went unconverted.
The Flames kept the pressure on, regardless of even strength. Even the grit line of Brandon Bollig (why), Drew Shore, and Hunter Smith got some chances in at the net. Disheartening to see the Flames are tailoring Shore to overtake Stajan as the team babysitter.
Even defensively, the Flames were lighting up the Oilers. Every attempt at a clean zone entry was denied by a Flame whacking the puck back out to the neutral zone. They didn't record a single even strength corsi event in a five minute span. Eye-test wise, Micheal Ferland reprised his role as "human ICBM" and destroyed Rob Klinkhammer in front of the Flames net. Sometimes, it's nice that nothing has changed.
With the first line on, things were even sillier. Sean Monahan hit a crossbar after some pretty passing from Papa Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau. After a desperation clearance, they looked poised for a breakout, but the movement was nullified by a Dougie Hamilton double minor high-sticking call. The anonymous GMs were right all along (not at all)!
The PK unit would get their first test of the season, and they were certainly up for it. Hartley went with some interesting choices, icing both Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan at one point. That's okay, because they're both good at killing penalties. The Flames got off at least five clearances during the four minutes, and had a tiny bit of offensive pressure. The Oilers could barely keep the puck in the zone, but that's mostly on them.
Almost seconds after Hamilton stepped out of the box, Ferland went in for a hooking call in front of the net to try and relieve the pressure on Jonas Hiller. Again, the Flames PK did not disappoint. Monahan and Bennett work as a dual threat in these situations, nearly setting up a goal early on. It was a very easy kill for the Flames.
Despite good penalty killing, the Flames started to suck at the 5v5 play. Thankfully, there wasn't a lot of that as Benoit Pouliot took an interference penalty on Brodie. It was another fruitless powerplay, but the big takeaway was the much improved looking Mason Raymond, who was looking faster and a bit more dynamic. If only he could be consistent.
The penalty party did not end there. Johnny Hockey was doing Johnny Hockey things, and Jordan Eberle had no choice but to trip him up late in the first. Another powerplay? Why not! Dougie took off Ben Scrivens' helmet with a nasty wrist shot.
Scrivy went 9-for-9 in the 1st, including this save off the mask! pic.twitter.com/HIzYTWy119— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 22, 2015
Scrivens was alright, but the period ended without any scoring. Oilers led 10-9 in shots, and 21-15 in corsi in the first frame.
Thanks to the Flames' lousy streaming technology, I happened to miss the first quarter of the second period. Nothing much happened, besides the Flames getting a decent amount of shot attempts according to hockeystats.ca. When the stream came back to life, Phil McRae took a penalty for high sticking Dougie. Unacceptable
The Flames really wanted to punish the Oilers this time. After another Monahan post, the Oilers cleared and made a line change. Jonas Hiller recognized the chaos, and quickly fired a pass to Gaudreau at the Edmonton blue line. He entered the zone, slid a pass across to Frolik, who was fighting off Darnell Nurse. The new Flame fired one past Ben Scrivens, putting the good team up 1-0.
an unassisted child feeds Frolik pic.twitter.com/tpxkLdvP4Y— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2015
It wasn't long before the Oilers scored. After an initial save by Hiller on Pouloit, a goalmouth scramble ensued, and the result was Mark Letestu burying the puck for a 1-1 tie. Dang.
Hard-working #Oilers goal for Letestu! pic.twitter.com/dXfu3Sa1Nh— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 22, 2015
Shortly after, both teams switched goalies, with Joni Ortio and Anders Nilsson coming in.
To fulfill his pugnacity quota for the day, Hunter Smith tried to pick a fight with Nurse in retaliation for the fight between the latter and Rasmus Andersson in Penticton. Nurse wouldn't give in that easily, but finally did when the Flames were in the offensive zone. Smart. It didn't end well for Smith, who had his nose bloodied despite wearing a helmet and had to serve his five minutes in the dressing room.
#BattleOfAlberta pic.twitter.com/6K4w8fRv91— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 22, 2015
I have to apologize in advance for all these GIFs from the Oilers' twitter account. The preseason is the only time they're good, so they are certainly more excited and on the ball than Flames social media.
After the dancing bears got out of the way, the Flames went back to business as usual. Despite generating good offensive pressure, a Gaudreau drop pass found it's way onto the stick of Pouloit, who raced down the ice unabated. The Captain came flying in from across the ice to turn the breakaway into a two-on-one with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He denied Pouloit's initial shot, and then blocked the Nuge's. Jordan Eberle joined the play and took a shot (being taken out by Ferland afterwards), but was also blocked by Giordano. He's either making up for lost time, or doesn't know what the preseason is.
As you probably saw in many of the training camp, Hartley was playing with his lines a little bit. He finally decided to test this out in the late stages of the period, icing lines such as Frolik-Bennett-Hudler, Giordano-Hamilton, and Gaudreau-Monahan-Ferland. They first two were really good, but Ferland looked like a hanger-on with his new partners.
More nastiness ensued after Griffin Reinhart took Brett Kulak to the boards after the whistle. The scrum ended with no penalties, but Drew Shore tried to deal with Reinhart on the next play, breaking his stick in half. This rivalry is really something!
We had gone a few minutes without a powerplay for someone, so Gio decided it was time for one to happen. After a slashing call, paired with some coincidentals from anonymous players (they literally didn't announce who. Flames conventional media are also in preseason form).
Like the previous penalty kills, the Flames were doing a really good job. Brandon Bollig, who shouldn't be on the PK in the first place, almost had a scoring chance. That wasn't the only one during these two minutes. Michael Frolik was sprung for a breakaway, only to be slashed by Joey LaLeggia. Penalty shot time!
here is what lead to the penalty shot (which was stopped) pic.twitter.com/WkNmye9LxC— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2015
The result was spoiled by that tweet. Yeah, Frolik missed.
DENIED! Nilsson says no to Frolik on the penalty shot. pic.twitter.com/GDJg9w7wpS— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 22, 2015
The pressure didn't end there. Giordano left the box, forced a neutral zone turnover, and sent Ferland flying into the offensive zone only to be denied by Nilsson. I can't wait until the Oilers try this guy out in the regular season and he gets hung out to dry enroute to a demotion straight to the ECHL where we never hear from him again.
The period ended with a very Bob Hartley move. With two seconds left, the Flames had an offensive zone faceoff. Ortio was pulled for some potential scoring from... Brandon Bollig. As we later learned, Hartley saw Reinhart and Klinkhammer (who was trying to stop Hunter Smith from fighting Nurse) and sent him along with Ferland out to tussle with the two. The refs stopped that nonsense before it got out of hand, thankfully. Flames lead the period in shots 14-13, but Oilers led corsi 22-21.
Still 1-1 headed into the third, the Flames looked to tap some of last year's magic for the win. They had tremendous pressure early on, leading to Eric Gryba slashing Gaudreau across the hands. Whaddya know, another penalty!
Still experimenting with his lines, Hartley sent out Nakladal with Giordano, and Brodie with Hamilton. Both defensive powerplay units worked well, keeping the puck in, but once again failing to get the go-ahead goal.
The rest of the period was mostly free-flowing hockey, mostly in favour of the Oilers. I blame this on Hartley's continued experimentation, playing lines like Gaudreau-Bennett-Poirier, Ferland-Monahan-Hudler, and Nakladal-Everyone. It's probably best to get this lineup oddness out early rather than during the season.
With all the Oilers pressure, something had to give. After the Flames got a rare rush up the ice, the puck bounced over Giordano's stick and onto Eberle's. He flew down the ice with Pouloit, Nakladal being tested solo for the first time tonight. Unfortunately, he chose to play the Kris Russell defence and slide backwards towards the boards while Eberle made a lightly contested pass to Pouloit for the Oilers' go-ahead goal. 2-1 bad guys.
What a glorious game-winner by Ebs & Benny! pic.twitter.com/3X07ckg7bQ— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 22, 2015
See? I told you they have nothing to be excited about.
Late in the third period? Down a goal? Calgary Flames? Perfect recipe for some third period magic! Which, unfortunately did not happen tonight. The Flames, even with Ortio pulled, had trouble getting it out of the netural zone. Sam Bennett was the only one who could break through the Oilers defence. It didn't take long until Justin Schultz scored the empty netter on a 3-on-1. Third period shots were seven apiece, and corsi again favoured Edmonton 22-17.
Oilers won 3-1, leading corsi 65-53 despite shots being tied at 30. The Flames begin the preseason 0-2-0. Ah, shucks.
- Hockey's back! In some regard.
- The Flames still haven't been bested by the Oilers in two years in games that matter, regardless of tonight's result.
- TJ Brodie was, as usual, a silent monster for the Flames. He was the corsi leader, despite 27% offensive zone stars.
- Matt Stajan was also really effective. Maybe it's time he stopped being a babysitter to Bollig and Smith.
- Michael Frolik is already looking like a great acquisition, rarely looking out of place and providing most of the Flames' offence tonight.
- I didn't mention them much, but Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak looked great in limited ice time. They weren't as noticeable as the top three defenders, but they didn't make a mistake as far as I could see. Kulak made one of the plays of the game, containing a Chase outbreak and preventing the shot.
- Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano worked well together. I'm drooling already.
- Flames media for the lousy streaming service. The Mars rover has a more consistent connection and it's literally broadcasting from Mars.
- I really hope Hunter Smith gets cut tomorrow. He was terrible out there, always behind the play and providing no offensive upside. But kudos for avenging a clean fight in a rookie tournament.
- Brandon Bollig: still useless.
- I did praise Nakladal early on, but he seemed to be overwhelmed in the later stages of the game. Maybe that was Hartley's fault for playing him mostly against Pouliot-Nuge-Eberle after the midway point in the game. Giordano's corsi started slipping (surprisingly worst on the team) after the switch. If he makes the team, he's easily on the third pairing because he's still probably better than Deryk Engelland.
- Emile Poirier did everything right today, but also didn't do everything right. He got into the offensive zone and made a beeline to the net (good), but mishandled the puck (bad). He also fanned on an uncontested slapshot, leading to an Oilers break on the powerplay.
- Micheal Ferland didn't have himself a night. Yeah, there were times when he was doing things like this:
i can't identify either player but this was a solid hit pic.twitter.com/VHfArMArCB— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 22, 2015
But he also held the team back. When he got time with Bennett/Monahan/Gaudreau/Hudler, those lines slowed down offensively. He has found a niche with Stajan, so it's best to keep him there (and away from Hunter Smith). There was one frantic moment in the defensive zone where he had a clear lane to the neutral zone and iced it for no reason. Doubly odd when you consider than the line had been out there for over a minute.
- A lot of people were saying "nothing's changed!" in a positive light. I know it's the preseason, and it is only one game, but man, the Flames got out-possessed again. Like they always do. Maybe giving the Oilers four powerplays isn't a good idea, but this is the season where this needs to stop. It's concerning when the better of the two Flames' split squads is dominated by the inferior Edmonton squad.
More training camp, more cuts, and more hockey! The Flames play next on Thursday against Colorado at 7:00 PM MT. Hope to see you there!