When all was said and done, last night’s pre-season tilt between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks left a fine layer of rust covering the ice at Pengrowth Saddledome. Few expect brilliance in game one of the pre-season and rightly so.
It was a game to get reacquainted with teammates and playing in an organized setting again.
A one-goal victory against a Canucks club with few names we’ll be hearing again during the regular season isn’t something to get excited about. But a win is a win nevertheless, even in the pre-season.
So while the outcome leaves little to say, the play of the Flames roster does allow for assessment.
Alex Tanguay did what Flames fans know he can do. What was great about his performance was that he actually did what was expected of him.
An effortless pass to Mikael Backlund on a shorthanded rush in the second period was a great start. The pass to Backlund showed the soft hands of Tanguay, but more importantly showed his speed as he exploded through centre ice to start the 2-on-1 rush. The pass to Jarome Iginla on the game winner was a great sign that those two players still have chemistry.
Jay Bouwmeester finally started to show why he makes the big money. Bouwmeester didn’t shy away from joining the rush and demonstrated great speed and offensive ability on a few shifts during the night. There were a few defensive lapses, but seeing his 6-foot-4 frame standing in front of the net on power plays was enough to forget his mistakes. Thirty minutes of ice time isn’t too bad either.
With most conversations switching to T.J. Brodie when discussing the defensive future, Matt Pelech did a good job bringing himself back into contention.
Pelech showed good speed and vision throughout the night. On several occasions Pelech looked trapped in his end, but effortlessly spun away from forecheckers and moved the puck up the ice. There were the expected mental errors along the way, but rookies and veterans alike were doing that last night. Of all the prospects in attendance at the Saddledome, Pelech looked most comfortable.
John Armstrong, before being dropped in the third period by a puck to the face, was also showing promise. Armstrong showed lots of determination, strength and forechecking prowess. He didn’t play like a top six forward, but there were plenty of situations where he looked worthy of a third or fourth line spot on the Flames.
Room for Improvement
Although Curtis Glencross had over 14 minutes of ice time, he was a non factor all night. There were a few bursts of speed when shorthanded, but otherwise Glencross was barely noticed.
Glencross was a strong penalty killer last season, but like the rest of the Flames, his 5-on-5 play needs improvement. His play against the Canucks left much to be desired and one can only hope it was the result of a long summer and nothing else.
Save of the Game
Leland Irving faced eight shots in 20 minutes of play, and while Marco Rosa’s goal was shaky, Irving did provide the save of the game. A pass across the goal mouth to Jordan Schroeder looked to be a sure goal, but Irving quickly moved from right to left and robbed Schroeder with his outstretched left pad and glove. The save was a nice confidence boost for a goalie who struggled last season.
One player in the middle of trade talk all summer was Robyn Regehr. Much of the trade talk stemmed from a 2009-10 season to forget for Regehr. Against the Canucks last night, Regehr was a force.
Regehr’s two assists was a nice offensive addition, but his strong defensive play was especially noticeable and welcomed. A strong 20 minutes of ice time, with hits, good positioning and aggression from the veteran defenseman is just what the doctor ordered.
The strong offensive and defensive showing of Regehr made him the most complete player for the Flames last night, and is hopefully a sign that he is returning to form for the upcoming season.