Yes, I know it’s just pre-season, but some alarm bells are already ringing after a very ugly 4-0 loss last night for the Calgary Flames against the Edmonton Oilers. It was a game that was thoroughly dominated by the Oilers, as they outshot Calgary 49-15. While some will argue that it was a definite “B Squad” iced by the Flames as they did not dress any of their top six forwards or top pairing defencemen, it can also be argued that the Oilers iced a “C+ squad” at best as well. Here are my thoughts on the game:
Dan Vladar was the Lone Bright Spot
Before we get into the negative surrounding the game, I wanted to touch on the superb performance that Dan Vladar put forward. Playing just half a game, Vladar made a number of outstanding saves as the Oilers barraged him with 23 shots. He seemed very alert and active in tracking pucks through traffic and did a very good job of controlling rebounds. Vladar also made a highlight reel save doing some sort of reverse pad stacking (not totally sure how intentionally) to rob the Oilers forward.
The reverse double pad stack pic.twitter.com/bLdjAXa0Vp— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) September 27, 2021
In terms of the goals he was beaten on, there was a breakaway where the puck floated through the air onto an Oiler stick and he was beaten on a nice deke. The other goal was Derek Ryan finding a lose puck when all five Flames seemed to lose track during the penalty kill. He made a very good case to be the unquestioned #2 last night.
Derek Ryan Looked Very Good
I will always be a fan of Derek Ryan’s game, although it will have to be considerably less now that he is an Edmonton Oiler. As one of the lone veterans in the lineup, Ryan was all over the ice for Edmonton last night and had at least two points along with being named first star of the game. To me it really begs the question of why the Flames didn’t push a bit harder to keep him. Perhaps he didn’t make enough of an impression on Darryl Sutter, but given what the Flames have replaced him, it’s not exactly inspiring confidence.
The Flames Can’t Afford to Dress Erik Gudbranson
This signing has looked utterly atrocious from Day 1. I really can’t understand why the Flames brought him in. Yes I know it sounds like Sutter is running the show right now, but giving Gudbranson the contract they did really makes me question a lot of the good the organization did in building up the prospect pool.
Plus the Flames also felt the need to give him $1.95M despite that there didn’t seem to be a bidding war for his services. Even if they send him to Stockton, Gudbranson will still count for $825K against the cap. While he wasn’t alone in looking very not good last night, Calgary just can’t expect to be a winning team if he is any more than a 7th defenceman.
The Flames Might be Very Physical this Year
Calgary was credited with 30 hits last night to just nine for the Oilers. Although it implies that the Flames were chasing a puck a lot (which they were), it also shows that the players understand that they will need to play a physical style under Sutter. Calgary surpassed 30 hits in just 8 of 54 games last season but obviously having a bunch of tough guys in your lineup will help those numbers. Nikita Zadorov and Milan Lucic were particularly active in using the body check early in the game.
Nowhere to Go but Up!
I really wish I had more feedback or thoughts on the individual players and particularly the younger players, but it was just such thorough domination by Edmonton that it was hard to even get a good grasp of guys. A number of prospects who dressed last night will be making the trip to Abbotsford to take on the Canucks tonight. Those players include Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka, Matthew Phillips, Martin Pospisil, Glenn Gawdin, and Connor Mackey. Andrew Mangiapane will also be in the lineup for the first time tonight.
The Flames will be better tonight as it is almost impossible to be any worse than what we saw last night. Oh well, it’s just pre-season (nervously sweats).