Going into last night’s game, there were two players I wanted to keep my eye on: Marko Dano & Laurent Brossoit. Dano because he had had an impressive pre-season up to that point and I wanted to see how he fared with weaker line-mates, and Brossoit because he had appeared so calm and cool in his previous appearance and I wanted to see how well that held up with arguably the least experienced line-up we’ve seen yet.
The first half of the first period was rough on the Jets – their flight delays and rushed pre-game routine came up a lot in the pressers – and the Flames busted out two quick goals from Valomaki and Lomberg. The former was a really nice play from down low into the slot that gave Brossoit little to no chance of stopping it, but the second was one the team would have wanted back. First, Lomberg embarrassed Jacob Trouba in the neutral zone, then Brossoit botched the angle, giving up the top corner on the near side, which Lomberg exploited handily. The Jets as a whole were shaky on defence throughout the period – heck, throughout the whole game – but I felt they were especially lucky to get out of the first down by only one goal after Sami Niku sniped a late one past goalie Mike Smith after starting the breakout in his own end. Otherwise, Ben Chiarot caught my eye with a weak play when he rushed a clearing attempt under pressure from the CGY forecheck and lofted the puck out and over the glass for a delay of game penalty, and for me the overall highlight of the early game was the Lowry line doing its thing, but no surprise there. Of the guys I decided to watch closely, Brossoit let in a softy but didn’t seem too affected to this point, while Dano was winning battles and moving the puck well, but didn’t seem to be getting much support. Unfortunately, this would remain a trend.
As an aside: there was a point during a 1st period Jets Power Play that they had three defencemen on the ice. Three! Trouba, Kulikov, and Niku. On the PP! How does that even happen? It’s rare to even see two d-men in on the PP together in this day and age. Bizarre.
Ehlers got the second period rolling with an early PP goal to tie things up. We all heard how he was going to try to shoot the puck more in this game, and hey, it seemed to pay off. Good for him. Brossoit got an opportunity to show off his strong lateral movement, something Coach Maurice likes to point out when asked about his presumed backup, making a nice save down low after needing to scramble from covering one post to the other. Marko Dano took a penalty, which, considering Maurice’s track record of young player evaluation, may lower his chances of making the team. Niku struggled a few times to make his breakout passes, but went on to nab his second goal of the night with a lucky deflection off a Flames defender. Brossoit looked stronger through the second, and Dano closed off the period with a strong shift alongside Roslovic and Ehlers. I worry a little that he may have been scolded for taking too long a shift and missing a line change, but he may also have been given a chance to redeem himself after the penalty. Who knows.
Third period highlights included a nice seam pass by Trouba to feed C.J. Suess for a tap-in and a highlight-reel save by Brossoit on Mangiapane, who seemed like one of the Flames most threatening players all night. Unforunately, the Flames struck twice in quick succession to regain the momentum. First, Ehlers appeared to blow his defensive assignment, leaving Giordano all alone in the slot. Second, with the Griffith line flailing and failing to get out of their zone, Brossoit tried to clear the puck himself. This attempt went straight down the middle of the ice to Morgan Klimchuk, who presumably couldn’t believe his luck, and who buried the puck unassisted into the gaping net. The Flames kept on pressing to the end of regulation, keeping the Jets on their heels. The buzzer couldn’t come soon enough, I’m sure, but Ehlers shut things down with a cute little shot – a half clapper, I guess you’d call it? – beating Smith on the blocker side in the first shift of OT.
In the end, it wasn’t pretty, but it’s always better to win an exhibition game than to lose one. Dano showed that he has NHL tools, but couldn’t quite carry a line with with the likes of Matt Ustaski and Seth Griffith. To be fair to him, though, I’m not sure many guys could. Brossoit had his moments, but was a little more 50-50 than in his first showing. Niku can pick his shots, find seams, and get shots through, but wasn’t rock-solid in his own end. I’m curious, do people think his defensive hiccups are due more to inexperience or to the same pre-season rust showed by all the Jets defenders last night?