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Monday, September 14, 2015

Penticton 2015: Canucks 3, Flames 2 - Ten Post-Game Impressions (with quotes)

Final game of the Young Stars Tournament started off good for the Flames, who just like Saturday night against Edmonton scored first and had the lead for the first half of the game, but just like against the Oilers, they could not hang on.

In our first look at 3-on-3 overtime, the Canucks ended up 3-2 winners with Jake Virtanen gobbling up a turnover in the Canucks end and racing away, beating Nick Schneider on a breakaway at 3:47.

Calgary finishes the tournament 1-1-1. Here's a closer look at the final game.


Ten Post-Game Impressions


1. A+ Goaltending

Once again, Jon Gillies was sharp, stopping 18 of 19 shots. I'm no goalie coach but what I see from the 21-year-old is a guy that is very quiet in terms of his body movement. He's smooth going side-to-side, he's very controlled and he uses his 6-foot-5 height to his advantage. Whenever he does drop to his knees and jabs out those enormous pads, he becomes even larger by remaining upright and flaring out his upper body to take away most of the net.

Gillies came out after two periods to give Schneider an opportunity to see some action and he promptly made the save of the game stretching out to get his left pad on a shot from Jared McCann after he was set up for what looked like an easy goal on a 2-on-0 shorthanded rush by Reid Gardiner.

Gillies finishes the tournament with 45 saves on 47 shots in five periods of action. If you're into microscopic samples, that's a tidy 1.20 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage.


2. Streaky Scorer

It was an up and down night for Emile Poirier, who on this evening was more noticeable and got himself more involved and that's what coach Ryan Huska asked of him when he discussed his expectations earlier in the day.

While Poirier did have a couple of turnovers, he also could have easily had two or three goals and he demonstrated that nose for the net that got him 50 goals in his final season in the QMJHL and 19 goals in 55 games as an AHL rookie last year. On a line with Bill Arnold and Andrew Mangiapane, Huska noted that Poirier was better.

"Emile had some chances, he just wasn't hitting the net tonight, but we saw that with Emile last year," said Huska. "A lot of times he'd go through stretches where he wasn't getting opportunities and in his next two-to-three games, he'd score six or seven goals. He's that type of player. His challenge is going to be to be dangerous like I thought he was tonight. It's just a matter of capitalizing on his opportunities."


3. First Round Finisher

Finally, this game gave people a small glimpse into the qualities that excites fans about Morgan Klimchuk and that make him a dangerous player.

Playing the off-wing, which the 2013 first round pick did a lot in junior including all of last year when he was with Regina, the right-winger had his best shift up until that point in the tournament when late in the first period he essentially became the quarterback on the power play.

Stationed off the side boards on the left side, Klimchuk continually had the puck on his tape and was constantly moving and surveying his various options. Zipping a pass back to the point in one instance, blistering a shot on goal but just missing the top corner on another,

Klimchuk then notched the go-ahead goal late in the second period on a pretty three-way passing play with linemates Pavel Kaurnakhov and Mason Marchment. When a bad Canucks line change resulted in a 3-on-1, Klimchuk took the flick up from Kaurnauknov, sent the puck across the slot to Marchment, who zipped it right back to Klimchuk, who one-timed it past goaltender Clay Witt.

"I felt good tonight. Got into it early, got a few puck touches, got a few shots when I needed to," said Klimchuk, who had been nursing a lower body injury. "Tonight was a pretty good game for myself."


4. Exciting at Both Ends

As advertised, Oliver Kylington can certainly zip around on his skate blades, that's for certain, but the defenceman's decision-making will need to improve as he turned over the puck a few times after trying to beat multiple defenders in the offensive zone. That's the kind of thing that won't fly with Bob Hartley, that's for sure.

It did not hurt the flashy 18-year-old on this particular night but it could have and it will.

"You notice how good he is on his feet, the shiftiness. He's a guy that's quick, he skates very well, he loves to get himself up into the play and that's something that comes easy for him, you can see that," assessed Huska. "The work for him is going to be in his own zone and learning how to defend a little bit better."

However, Huska says that most importantly, Kylington has all the necessary tools.

"You can't teach offence and skating ability like that. You can teach defence. So I think it's a little better to have to push him on the defensive side of the game and let him do what he does best offensively," Huska said.


Score Like Orr

Considering Kylington has referred to Bobby Orr as one of his favourite players and with the reasoning being that he won the scoring title once, you know where Kylington's head is at and after finally seeing him live for a full game, his play would seem to confirm that.

"I try to be a threat every time I have the puck," said Kylington, who added that he feels he's got the type of game that is built for the NHL. "I think this North American style fits me pretty good. I don't think I need to adjust that much. Maybe some details in my own end."

Always sniffing out offence always and taking risks at the expense of smart, safe plays, is a 'decision tree' that he'll have to make some adjustments too. The one thing he can do, however, with his speed is sometimes bail himself out after he does make a mistake and that happened more than once where he turned the puck over but is able to dash back and get it back again or at least tie up the opponent.

"Today's defencemen, they have to be able to jump into the play and they've got to be able to get into the rush and they also have to be able to defend. He's got the traits that you need to have. Now it's up to him to make himself a better all-round player."


5. Shaking off the Rust

Looked far more comfortable in this game than Saturday in his debut, you can see why Kenney Morrison attracted a lot of NHL interest last season, so much so that the defenceman signed with Calgary and left Western Michigan University after three years.

Assertive is the word that comes to mind when I watched him tonight. Much quicker with his decisions at the blue-line -- pinching in with no hesitation to keep the puck in, much more deliberate and sharp with his passes. He just looked more settled and more confident whenever he had the puck on his tape.

Morrison also showcased a very hard shot in the third period ripping one from the top of the face-off circle that almost ripped a hole in Jackson Whistle, who took over in the Canucks net for the final 20 minutes.


6. Burkestreet Bullies

Brian Burke, President of Hockey Operations and chief purveyor of truculence, arrived in Penticton in time for Monday's game and naturally, there were two fights in the game. Word must have got around.

"I'm like Brian's here and we have fights, here we go," said Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy, with a chuckle.

Calgary did fare much better in the ring than on Saturday against Darnell Nurse and the Oilers but then again, this time the Flames had actual experienced fighters dropping the gloves and not a Swedish defenceman.

First, Hunter Smith and Mackenze Stewart -- two huge lads wearing matching No. 71's and representing nearly 13 feet of hockey player, exchanged blows in a spirited bout.

Later on, big Julien Proulx -- in Flames camp on a try-out and already having tallied a goal in the game (after scoring just twice in 79 games over his two QMJHL seasons) -- registered a resounding victory over Jonathon Martin.

"Well, obviously I don't like those two fights," said Conroy when asked what Burke's reaction was to the scraps. Of course, Conroy couldn't say it with a straight face. "No, I'm just kidding. Actually, he's like ooh, that's fun."



7. Russian Judged

One player that played in all three games and the more you saw him, the more you started to see some real intriguing attributes is Pavel Karnaukhov, the Flames fifth round pick in June that plays for the Hitmen.

Noticeable in a good way at both ends of the ice, it was Karnaukhov that initiated the 3-on-1 rush that led to Klimchuk's goal.

"He's interesting because he's that big centreman," said Huska. "He's got the size, he skates well and he's got offensive ability so it will be interesting to see how he progresses and develops along the way."

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, the 18-year-old is definitely someone to keep an eye on, which will be easy for management and fans to do considering he junior hockey home is the Saddledome.

"Everybody wants to be bigger down the middle of the ice and he's got that," said Huska. "He's another guy, who has opportunity in front of him. It's what he does with it now."

In his first season in North America, Karnaukhov had 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 69 games.

"He plays the game solid, he works hard, he battles on both sides of the puck and that's something I always appreciate playing with, no matter who it is," said Klimchuk. "If they're going to play hard on both sides of the puck and play responsible, I enjoy playing with guys like that."


8. Rasmus Rewarded

One of the biggest moments of the night came right at the start of the game. In fact, it happened during the signing of the Canadian anthem. The Flames announced that defenceman Rasmus Andersson, who made perhaps the biggest impression of anyone in Penticton, had signed an entry-level contract.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Andersson, speaking to the media at the first intermission. "I'm really excited to be here and be part of this organization. It's real nice. The organization has a bright future ahead."

Andersson got the night off after logging a ton of minutes in both of the first two games and looking very good in the process.

"We have a lot of good, young players here and hopefully one day, I can be one of the young players that plays on the team. I just have to keep working on my stuff and develop my game," he said.

He added that once he put pen to paper, his first call was back home to Malmo, Sweden, to his father Peter, who played 47 NHL games split between the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers.

"I talked to my Dad first. Obviously, he's really excited and he's happy for me. It's a huge thing to sign your first NHL deal and it's a dream coming true that I've had since I was a little kid."


9. The Long Road Back

A year ago, Patrick Sieloff was just coming back from missing nearly an entire season with a staph infection. The goal at that time was just to get back on the ice and resume his career.

While the defenceman was scratched some nights and even volunteered to play forward for several games late in the season when injuries struck up front, the most important achievement for Sieloff last year was staying healthy.

This year, he wants to build on that and get back into the mix of the several prospects on the blue-line jockeying for positioning on the call-up list.

"I just want to trust myself out there," said Sieloff. "I'm healthy, I'm feeling great out there. I'm making plays. I want to be a great first-pass guy out of the zone and join the rush and get shots on net."

Getting into his second game of the tournament, Sieloff was one of the better defencemen on this night and while that should be the case given he also was the most experienced, he played sound and demonstrated good quickness, poise and in particular he was very active and effective with his stick in terms of breaking up passes and derailing oncoming rushes.

"First game was pretty good but I thought this game was a lot better," said the 21-year-old. "I'm just more confident with the puck this year and I trust my skating."

In one sequence on a power play, Sieloff had a dangerous chance from 40 feet out at the culmination of a stretch of prolonged pressure. But, his stick exploded on him and back the other way race Vancouver with Sieloff left to defend a 1-on-1 without a stick. However, he played it smartly and it didn't even lead to a scoring chance.



10. Debut of 3-on-3 OT

Seeing 3-on-3 overtime in the NHL for the first time was one topic that had everybody buzzing after the game.

"It's like you're out there on a pond or a river and you're just playing. It's a lot of fun," said Arnold. "It's more fun for the players. It's more fun for the crowd. It's exciting up and down hockey."

Arnold got to play in 3-on-3 last year as part of the hybrid approach the AHL was testing in which you begin a seven-minute overtime period 4-on-4 and then drop it to 3-on-3 at the first whistle after the three minute mark. The format the NHL decided to implement was go right to six combined skaters and keep the time at five minutes.

"You have to make sure, especially 3-on-3, that if you get a chance to score, you score, because if you don't, it's going right down the other way."

But he enjoys it, make no mistake.

"I love it, it makes me smile thinking about it," said Arnold. "It's definitely an adrenaline rush, for sure."

Arnold started the OT with Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver  Kylington. The next trio sent over the boards for Calgary was Taylor Burke, Emile Poirier and Kenney Morrison.

Klimchuk was on the ice for the game-winner. As alluded to, Calgary had the pressure but it took just one mistake and the game was over. Klimchuk tried desperately to lift the stick of Virtanen after he stole the puck inside the Canucks blue-line but was unsuccessful and was left flat-footed with no hope of catching Virtanen.

"It's exciting for sure, you miss the net, it's a 3-on-1. They miss the net, it's a 3-on-1," said Klimchuk. "It's definitely an interesting add to the game and is something that you have to learn and we learned the hard way tonight. But I think it will be good going forward once everybody gets the hang of it."

Huska is real interested to see how it plays out in the NHL.

"With the skill that's able to be put on the ice and the speed that's going to be on the ice, you miss the net and you're in trouble. It's going to be going back-and-forth and back-and-forth," said Huska. "It will be interesting to see how the coaches adapt to it and what slight changes they make to give their team the advantage."



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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