If there is anything we can definitively learn in the preseason that will translate to the regular season, and we all know there is, then this game gave it to us: the Vancouver Canucks are not good at hockey. They can be physical, and they can maybe get off to a good start, but they are not actually good.
Sadly, there really isn't anything definitive we can draw from a preseason game. There are trends we can notice, players who prove they deserve a closer look, but nothing really definitive.
(The Canucks probably aren't going to be good this season, though, but that's beside the point.)
The Calgary Flames got off to a terrible start. It took them just over six minutes to get their first shot on net - a shot by Deryk Engelland, no less - but as they approached the end of the first period, they got their butts in gear, and never looked back.
The Canucks drew first blood, taking advantage of Lance Bouma's trip on Hunter Shinkaruk. On what can mostly be described as a lethargic penalty kill, the Flames mostly stood around, obstructed Jonas Hiller's view, and allowed Jake Virtanen to get the scoring started with a farside snipe.
After that, it was all Flames. Sam Bennett hadn't been scoring much over the past month, but he put that all to rest when he got his first of the preseason thanks to a huge rebound created by Michael Frolik, and then, a gorgeous snipe.
A few minutes later, with the Flames on a brief five-on-three powerplay - Brandon Sutter went off for crosschecking, and with 21 seconds to go in the penalty, Brandon Prust for high sticking - Micheal Ferland, who is increasingly relevant against the Canucks, potted it just as the first penalty expired.
flames 2nd pic.twitter.com/n6LzYdjqkm— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 26, 2015
The Flames were pretty much running away with it at this point. About halfway through the game, Sean Monahan chipped the puck out of the defensive zone and onto Ferland's stick. Ferland carried it up ice and Monahan sped past everyone, and one perfect pass and perfect shot later, Calgary was up 3-1.
Frolik, who really seems to like scoring at home, made it 4-1, and that was it for regulation scoring.
Good soccer instincts by Michael Frolik here: pic.twitter.com/hJ4A1vvUzk— The Faceoff Circle (@faceoffcircleca) September 26, 2015
All the Flames' scoring - and general dominance - aside, it was a very physical, very penalty-filled game. There was one fight between Prust and Blair Riley. There were also two mutual roughing calls in the third: one between Engelland and Derek Dorsett, and the other between Patrick Sieloff and former Flame and friend Blair Jones. A couple of scrums and big hits added on to ensure the rivalry between these two teams is still going strong.
3 on 3 OT
Because the NHL is switching to three-on-three overtime in the regular season (as opposed to the four-on-four of yesteryear), all teams are required to play some overtime in the preseason, regardless of the game's actual score. So even though the Flames won 4-1, they were off to overtime!
The first unit sent out was Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and Monahan, which is kind of a terrifying trio to be up against, if you think about it. (Due to mutual penalties, the Flames actually played some three-on-three overtime in 2014-15 against the Edmonton Oilers: T.J. Brodie was in for Hamilton, and it was just as good a unit.)
The first trio was firmly in control of the puck throughout their shift. Hamilton did bobble it at one point, but used his reach to immediately get it back. They nearly scored, as well - a Monahan tip from a shot from the point - but Jacob Markstrom just managed to get it and save overtime from ending prematurely.
The Flames' second unit consisted of Dennis Wideman, Johnny Gaudreau, and Jiri Hudler, which is a terrifying unit from a defensive perspective. The Canucks had more control of the puck against those three, and even forced Hiller to make a great save at one point. Gaudreau, a little over-excited, had a beautiful feed to Wideman from the corner of the Canucks' net, and then tried to tuck it in himself when Wideman went wide, but ended up falling down instead.
Overtime ended rather abruptly (as it tends to do) when Kris Russell jumped onto the ice, brought the puck in, drove to the net and just sniped it, all over the course of just a few seconds.
So the Flames won 5-1 in overtime. Hurrah!
Flame of the game
Micheal Ferland seriously impressed, and because it's the Canucks, let's just go with Ferland. That's two impressive back-to-back games for him, and he's looking more likely now than ever to be a lock for the opening night roster.
Ferland spent his night playing in the Flames' top six, and he looked like he belonged. It's important to not get overexcited about him because, well, preseason, but he played with combinations of Gaudreau, Monahan, Hudler, Bennett, and Frolik all night long, and never looked out of place. Presuming Mikael Backlund is the Flames' third line centre, taking mostly defensive zone starts, then the sixth member of the Flames' top six is up for grabs - and Ferland looks like he now has the inside path.
He had a goal, an assist, four shots on net, two hits, 13:59 in ice time (4:10 on the powerplay, 0:34 on the penalty kill), and an even strength CF% of 53%. Ferland is really working hard towards showing us that his performance in the playoffs wasn't a one-time thing, and so far, he's succeeding.
- Wouldn't it be hilarious if Ferland turns out to be super successful against the Canucks only? I don't think this is going to be the case - I just think it would be funny. (The alternative, that he's an awesome player all around, is much better.)
- The Flames are definitely a top-heavy team, but when your top-end players are as good as they are, that's okay. The Giordano-Hamilton pairing looked incredible out there, especially as the game went on. They were the top option for the powerplay units, as well - things didn't seem to go nearly as well when it was Wideman and Russell out there instead.
- The expected top line of Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hudler had a slow start. As the game went on, however, they got their legs back under them - and they all look like they're in for another big year. (For that matter, so does Frolik.)
- The lines changed around a lot, but the top six players stayed pretty consistent throughout the game. They were the truly noticeable guys.
- The Flames' top even strength corsi players? Gaudreau (91%), Monahan (88%), Giordano (84%), and Hamilton (81%). Get hype? Get hype, why not?
- Paul Byron played 13:06 in his first game action in over half a year. He didn't play much on special teams, was held off the board, and had 41% even strength CF - just one of six Flames to be a negative possession player. That's not what he's known for, but it really has been a long time since he played, so hopefully, he'll be given more opportunities, and still be the player he was before.
- Hiller stopped 25 of 26 shots, and was perfect at even strength.
- Okay, so, the Prust-Riley fight? Should not have happened. Riley was not in the lineup card. There are no stats attributed to him. He was just... there. The two fought after the Canucks' goal, Riley went to the locker room, and Kenny Agostino popped up to take a regular shift for the remaining 55:27 of the game. Uh, oops?
- Agostino was the only Flame to play fewer than 10 minutes, possibly because he missed out on a some game time for no apparent reason.
- Sieloff was the only Flames defenceman to play fewer than 20 minutes. He and Engelland were at the bottom of the Flames regarding even strength corsi. (Russell was the only other defenceman to post negative possession stats.)
- Monahan and Gaudreau led the forwards with 18:02 and 17:28 of ice time, respectively. Though their third linemate was changed around a few times, it doesn't seem like they themselves will be broken up. Whichever line is the top line, it's the one they're on.
- The Flames had three (non-offsetting) powerplays to the Canucks' six. Most frequently found on the powerplay: Monahan (7:11), Gaudreau (6:52), Hudler (6:46), Hamilton (6:34), and Giordano (6:19). They really did form a good unit.
- Russell led the way with 2:02 of penalty kill time; other than him, Engelland had 1:42, Monahan 1:15, and everyone else spent less than a minute on the kill, if even that.
- The Flames completely outclassed the Canucks, but powerplays played a big role in that.
Compare the game's overall corsi chart (via HockeyStats.ca):
To the even strength corsi chart:
They were still the better team, but the difference wasn't as extreme.
The Flames gotta hop a plane and head on over to Vancouver, where they will once again play the Canucks, this time at 8 p.m. MT. The game will be televised once again, this time on Sportsnet. Let's hope it's as good as this one was!