February 28th, 2014 | Posted in Game Takes
By: D'Arcy McGrath
Just in case the long Olympic break had you forgetting what hockey in Calgary looks like this NHL season, never fear as the Flames pretty much got right back to what they do last night at the Saddledome.
Play well, work hard, arguably be the best team through 40 minutes, but struggle to score and come up empty in a 2-0 contest at home.
Three players stood out to me all night.
On the backend TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano were solid all over the ice. Moving the puck well, using the body (especially Giordano), and making smart reads in all three zones. Two great defensemen to build around.
Mikael Backlund took over where he left off which was a good thing to see. So comfortable with the puck now, never just getting rid of it. Almost fleeced the Kings’ defense for a second period goal but was tripped up (with no call inexplicably).
I thought Joni Ortio handled himself well in his first NHL contest. Butler and Russell got crossed up on the Kings first period goal, leaving the youngster little chance. The third period goal was a goal mouth scramble that I wouldn’t place blame either.
Grandlund had a few shots on net, moved the puck well at times, but was saddled with Westgarth and all that comes with that spend the entire shift in your own zone schtick, making his evaluation difficult. He’s not very big, I’ll tell you that.
The Monahan report. Earlier in the season I was impressed by his ability to find open ice and do the little things well, but concerned at how he handled the puck like a grenade carrying it up the ice or down low. Before the break he started showing signs of getting more comfortable with the puck which was a good sign. Last night he was smooth with the puck, including a foray where he shredded the Kings defence before firing wide. Stud, really rounding into form. Great pick.
Draft Implications / Scoreboard
Flames lose, that’s a good start.
The Islanders win over the Leafs in overtime which feels good on many levels. The Oilers lost to the Wild, and the Panthers lost to the Capitals so not all roses for the Flames. Still curious about these back to back wins from the Sabres this week.
A refresher on the standings? Flames tied with the Panthers with identical records, three points behind the Tavares-less Islanders and drafting either fourth overall because of the ROW tie breaker.
What a difference watching a Flames/Kings game after the back to back wins by Canada at Socchi, unreal. The Flames played well, and the Kings are outside contenders, but the speed of play, and level of mistakes suggest it’s a different sport than what we watched. Will say, however, how much better the hockey would have been in Socchi on NHL sized ice. Love the rapid fire action around the net, and avoiding that tedious five guys camping out and blocking shots fiasco we saw at 10AM every morning. … Never would have guessed the Flames would be a puck moving team, but they really are. Very aware of the system and where the other player is on the ice. Lots of really good puck pushes into open ice and a teammate and less off the glass, or up in the air without aim or a plan. If they could finish they’d be a better hockey team clearly, but that’s what a rebuild is. … Never would have guessed I’d see Joni Ortio man the nets at the Dome when the young Fin flamed out in the AHL a year ago and went home. Thought that was it. … Can’t wait until we get to Wednesday and deplete the roster a bit so we can see a handful of other players make their debuts. Corban Knight is certainly the one I’m the most curious about. Ramage and Wotherspoon as well.
Stempniak is away on person reasons, and I understand that Glencross and McGrattan are close as well meaning some roster moves are coming even before we get a look at deadline moves.
Where Do They Go From Here?
One more contest, a match in Philly on Saturday morning and the Flames are mothballed until after the Olympics. Enjoy the games everyone!.