CALGARY – It may only be a limited showing for now, but the Calgary Flames’ 2013 first-round picks Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier took centre stage at the repaired Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night and left a positive impression.
Their pre-season debut did not come in a victory, the Oilers won 3-2 on a late goal from Martin Marincin, but Poirier with one nice goal and nearly a second and Monahan with a gritty night in the face-off circle gave Flames fans a reason to be excited about the future.
“Those guys are only going to get better, they’re so young and so fresh, it’s an exciting team for our team,” said veteran Flames defenceman Mark Giordano.
Trailing 2-0 headed to the third period, the Flames finally got on the scoreboard when Poirier had a puck carom out to him at the face-off circle and he buried a shot behind Richard Bachman to cut the lead in half at 2:43.
With the scored tied 2-2, Poirier nearly put the Flames in front hitting the goal post.
“It took one or two shifts to get up to the speed and physicality of the game, for sure,” said Poirier, selected 22nd overall with the pick the Flames got from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester trade. “I learned the pace of the game, the speed and the physicality. It’s good to see where you stand.”
Mike Cammalleri, a qualified observer with 606 NHL games and 210 goals on his resume, liked what he saw from Poirier.
“I saw him finding pucks out there. He seemed to be in the right spot at the right time and that’s not always necessarily lucky. If it happens more often than not, it’s usually because the player has a knack for that and he showed that kind of hockey sense tonight,” Cammalleri said. “He was able to bury a nice goal. He created another chance where he hit a post, showing nice patience to get to the middle and make that play.”
While Poirier is expected to return to Gatineau, Que., and another year of junior hockey, the situation is less clear with Monahan. Through development camp in the summer, the team’s rookie camp and now the first few days of main camp, Monahan has looked very good and the decision on whether he stays with the Flames may not happen until the regular season as he can play up to nine games before his entry level contract kicks in.
“I feel fine out there. I think I can fit in well but I think I could have been a lot better today,” Monahan said.. But this is the first one, I was a little bit nervous and it’s a different kind of atmosphere so I’m going to get used to that quickly and I’m going to learn quickly.”
A position of need for the Flames is centre as they’ve been dreadful in recent years in the face-off dot. That’s an area that Monahan specializes in and he showed it tonight, in particular when he battled head to head with noted face-off specialist Boyd Gordon of the Oilers.
“Face-offs are something I take a lot of pride in since I was a young player and it’s something that’s always been stressed in me from my Dad and my Grandpa and it’s something that’s a big part of my game,” Monahan said.
Giordano liked how Monahan got right in there and competed and wasn’t shy.
“He has a lot of skill obviously,” Giordano said. “Sean impressed me tonight. He’s battling, getting right in there against Gordon who’s one of the best in the league. He took a few from him and he wasn’t afraid to get in there before the puck was dropped and butts heads with them a little bit, which is nice to see.”
Now it’s up to them to build on this first outing.
“I always felt when I played in those rookie tournaments, I always felt the first couple games, you felt really, really, really good and after that, it was up to you to sustain that,” said Giordano. “The pace is a bit quicker but you’ve always got that extra camp under your belt. They carried over, they played well and they look like they’re confident players, which is really what you want to see out of your young guys.”
Edmonton also got goals from Ryan Jones and newcomer David Perron.
Cammalleri also scored for Calgary, which beat the Oilers 6-5 in a split-squad shootout later Saturday in Edmonton.
The Flames started veteran Joey MacDonald and in his half of work he stopped 10-of-11 shots. Finn Joni Ortio, 22, played the second half and was beaten twice on 10 shots.
Jason Labarbera, acquired in the summer to be Devan Dubnyk’s back-up was perfect on 12 shots faced before giving way to Bachman halfway through the second period.
Notes: Calgary’s third first-round pick this summer was Morgan Klimchuk but he’s out with an abdominal injury … Throughout the game, special recognition was paid to the thousands of contractors that helped get the Scotiabank Saddledome game-ready after the June flood. Contractors involved in the repairs were given tickets to the game. … Playing left wing with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle was Ryan Hamilton, 28, who has spent the past seven seasons in the AHL with the exception of 12 games he got into for the Maple Leafs the past two years. … The only fight was between Calgary’s Blair Jones and Edmonton’s Travis Ewanyk. … Edmonton was 1 for 3 on the power play while Calgary was 0 for 3.