It's still early in the preseason, so the growing pains remain, and the hockey, somewhat ugly. The game settled in as it went on, though: another penalty-filled affair, but this one, rather low scoring. The Calgary Flames were largely outshot and out-possessed, but they did well in drawing penalties against the Colorado Avalanche.
That and, well, Joni Ortio simply beat out Reto Berra in the goaltending department, posting a shutout in his first full game since the end of the 2014-15 season. In the first period, Josh Jooris scored the only goal of the game, assisted by none other than the increasingly impressive Rasmus Andersson.
Considering the lineup the Flames iced - one filled with very few true veterans, and mostly players on the fringe of actually making the Flames - they had an extremely impressive performance all around. Ortio was the hero, but he was aided by an extremely young blueline that got even younger (and thinner) when Jakub Nakladal was body slammed by John Mitchell early in the third period, and failed to return.
Things were tense as the game ended, especially with the young group fighting to defend just a one-goal lead. Brandon Bollig took a hooking penalty with just under four minutes to go, but the penalty kill and Ortio held strong, and continued to do so when Berra was pulled.
The young Flames were outshot 35-25, and out-corsi'd 58-42, but successfully held on for the 1-0 win.
Flame of the game
Not that it's easy to tell when you can only go off by audio, but really, there's no contest with this one: Joni Ortio. With three waiver-eligible goalies on the roster, the Flames' crease is much too crowded. Something has to give, but you have to think the Flames want to keep the 24-year-old Ortio. It sounded as though he had a shaky start, and some occasional rebound control issues; however, as the game went on, his performance only compounded his desire to be in the NHL: he faced 35 shots, and he kept them all out.
Hell, it even sounded like he had a Miikka Kiprusoff-esque moment or two, including an impressive save on the wraparound against Nathan MacKinnon, who may very well have been the Avs' best player on the night.
- Jooris had some serious effort on his goal, speeding en route to the net and capitalizing on his own rebound. And that's on his first game back from injury. He seriously impressed in his preseason performance a year ago; sounds like the same thing is happening again.
- Not to be outdone, Micheal Ferland was a wrecking ball all night. His name came up a lot, and only in really good ways. You heard him fighting with players for the puck, crashing the net, and just generally causing havoc. It sounded like he worked out really well with Matt Stajan and David Jones - but his performance didn't dip when he ended up on a line with Sam Bennett or Joe Colborne, either.
- Speaking of Ferland, he led the team with three shots on net. Functional truculence? Functional truculence. He's not just there to hit people - he's there to try to get goals, too. He led the Flames with a CF of 64% - the only positive possession Flame this game.
- Ryan Wilson also had three shots on net, tying Ferland for the Flames lead. With T.J. Brodie's injury, and now the potential loss of Nakladal, the chances of him getting a contract seem more and more realistic. And if he keeps putting up performances like the one he had tonight, you've got to think he has a very real shot at making this team.
- He also drew two penalties! And helped Ortio on some rebound clearing, back when Ortio was struggling at the beginning of the game! If one of your bottom pairing guys is someone who can put the puck on net, help out defensively, and draw penalties, well, that's a good bottom pairing guy.
- Nakladal was an ice time leader for the Flames before he got hurt. You didn't hear his name much, which means he must have been doing a good job defensively, so you really hope he's okay and still has the chance to make this team.
- With the depleted blueline, Kenney Morrison ended up having the most ice time, with 24:43 played. Almost everyone but Nakladal got 20 minutes in - Brett Kulak was just 15 seconds shy of reaching that mark.
- Andersson, who in all likelihood is going to spend his season in the OHL, does sound like he needs to get stronger. He's only 18 (almost 19), so that makes sense, and isn't a knock on him at all. You really do have to love where he's at right now, considering he was only just drafted a few short months ago.
- He did, however, have the worst corsi on the team, clocking in at just 17% CF. Love him as a pick, but there's still plenty of room to grow.
- Also, he blocked a shot with his butt, and that's awesome.
- There were a couple of other players here and there generating the occasional scoring chance (aside from Jooris' actual successful attempt): Markus Granlund, Turner Elson, Drew Shore.
- The Flames drew a lot of powerplays. They didn't score on any of them, but considering their ice time leaders with the man advantage were Kulak, Andersson, Raymond, Bennett, Ferland, Colborne, and Morrison - all with at least 4 minutes with the man advantage (except for Morrison, who clocked in at 3:51) - it was mostly the kids running the show.
- As for the penalty kill, the most frequently used Flames were Wilson, Elson, Granlund, Dustin Stevenson, and Morrison, all with at least 2:30 - though Wilson had the biggest lead, playing 4:35 on the kill.
- Seriously, you have to think Wilson ends up with a contract by the end of the preseason.
- The Avs had some guy named Andrew Agozzino in their lineup, and I have never been more thankful for Kenny Agostino to not be playing a game.
Short turn around! Perhaps there will be some cuts tomorrow, perhaps not; either way, the Flames will be back at home to host the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. MT. This one is televised on Sportsnet, so get ready to watch some actual hockey again!
The lineup will probably be different, and the goaltender battle will likely continue. We'll see who's all in.