This is the type of preseason game I call "prospect pulp": All due respect to Jay Pandolfo, Tim Wallace and Trevor Frischmon (who was 11-4 on faceoffs), but they are guys fighting for fourth-line or AHL call-up status.
Likewise, veterans Steve Staios and Milan Jurcina are what they are. (And Jurcina, incidentally, got hurt again with a strained groin.)
We're just watching for titillating bits of skill, glimpses of the future from kids who aren't ready yet. Which is why it was fun to see Kirill Kabanov and Ryan Strome play together, and fun to see Matt Donovan and Calvin de Haan both impress and face the steep learning curve of the NHL.
More notes after the jump, but in pre-jump-worthy news, the Islanders lost 2-0 and Evgeni Nabokov was solid if not fiercely tested. The Flames had the better squad and it showed in increasing increments as the game went on. Young Rhett Rakhshani suffered another tough break, leaving the game with a knee injury.
This isn't related to the game necessarily, but to how Jack Capuano is evaluating throughout camp. A quote in Newsday is a theme I've seen a few times and find interesting:
his first training camp with the team is important to him "becasue we’re a team that does make adjustments game-to-game, so you want to make sure that, when you make those adjustments, guys understand why, and what they’re supposed to do."
"Versatility" might not be the word for it, but I propose he's looking for players with the speed to be dangerous in pressing situations but the ability to do different, more passive forechecks depending on the opponent. I have hunches from last season's second half, so it will be interesting to test those out with a full season under Capuano.
- Evgeni Nabokov stopped pucks, 15 of 16 in fact, but he also handled the puck in ugly fashion. He did not stray as far from the crease as is Rick DiPietro's wont, but he did enough to join DP on the watch list.
- Uninspiring night from Ty Wishart and Dylan Reese. I'm not sure who dragged down the other, or if both were equally culpable. Wishart just looked slow to react, and Reese had some missed assignments. They were victimized on the first goal, a shorthanded goal with Curtis Glencross easily slipping around Reese to receive the "through ball" pass.
- On the second Flames goal, in the third period, Staios whiffed trying to catch the puck off the boards at the point. Calvin De Haan didn't cover the resulting 2-on-1 ideally (Ryan Strome was in backchecking pursuit but either didn't arrive in time or was misled by de Haan, who ended up diving to attempt blocking the shot). Lee Stempniak ripped the ensuing pass past Mikko Koskinen.
- Koskinen, incidentally, played the third period and made some good saves. But he only faced six shots so there's nothing to read there. Still, has to feel good for him after his previous appearance.
On the Kids
Kabanov and Strome started with Trevor Gillies, who laid a couple of satisfying hard early hits, but Gillies frequently short-shifted and the two pups ultimately saw some time with Blake Comeau and Micheal Haley. Rhett Rakhshani's injury opened up a rotation throughout the lineup.
Overall, I got the kid skill pulp I was looking for, minus any actual goals. Strome does well with the "vision" thing, looking for, spotting and hitting the trailing man with a pass. He also exhibits awareness in his own zone, at least for an 18-year-old. Kabanov if anything tries too hard to feed teammates -- he scuttled one rush when he held on to the puck waiting for an open man too long, finally feeding Strome when it was too late to get a dangerous shot off. Both Kabanov and Strome had some skilled passes, Strome feeding Rakhshani for a powerplay one-timer early on.
Just one and two preseason games into their careers, neither looks ready for the NHL of course -- although it'd be better to make that judgment after they've played in a fuller lineup rather than after a game where they were on the top line with, at times, an enforcer. There is some undeniable skill there, on course for a bright future.
Calvin de Haan made some smart plays but also some slow plays (telegraphed or slow passes), but he'll learn NHL speed. He needs to continue developing his strength, as after he beat Olli Jokinen to a partial breakaway, he ended up losing the man vs. man meeting in the corners.
Blueline TOI leader (23:28) Matt Donovan's strength is already impressive, and he had a really nice game both handling the puck and positioning his body. I was unmoved by his appearances in the rookie game so I owe him praise for the attributes he exhibited tonight, which also included a team-high four shots. His time included three minutes each on the PP and PK, so it was fun to see him play in all situations. Very nice showing.
Speaking of the PK, the Islanders spent a lot of time there on this night with Staios joining Donovan in drawing the bulk of minutes in back and Blake Comeau up front. The Flames only had three shots to show for it, so no damage done there.
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Now it's back to the home region (preseason games left in Newark Friday and Bridgeport Saturday) with cuts or at least more specific NHL-bound and AHL-bound groups to be divided.
Cheers to everyone who stayed up for a late one with the B squad. With each preseason game, the real hockey gets closer.