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'TRENDING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION'

Gaudreau and Monahan stand out in low-scoring affair during final red & white scrimmage as team rounds into form

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Across the rink and down below, you could sense the energy building.

From studio quiet to anything but, the sounds of the game were all you could hear, swelling deep in the tunnels before the music played and sirens rang.

The crunch of the skates, the rustling pads, and the occasional thud! of a stick on the keister.

Sure, it was 'only' a scrimmage - at the end of a long camp, no less. But this, like any other game at the Scotiabank Saddledome, had the feel of one that had meaning.

It was, after all, the very last look-see on a meticulous, pre-flight checklist. 

With training camp winding down, the Flames were back at it Friday, putting the finishing touches on their playoff game plan with the third and final red-and-white friendly.

Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were easily the best and most engaged players on the ice, delivering a 3-0 victory for Team White. 

 

Video: Highlights from Friday's scrimmage at the 'Dome

 

David Rittich got the start and went the distance for Team Red, while Jon Gillies and Artyom Zagidulin split the duties for Team White. Cam Talbot, who's competing with Rittich for the starting role out of camp, did not see any action and was wearing only half his gear while sitting on the bench, backing up Rittich.

"We're trending in the right direction," said Matthew Tkachuk, who saw reps with both teams thanks to his work on the powerplay. "It was more of a low-scoring game and that's OK, because that's what you typically see in the playoffs.

"I thought we did some good things. We're going to be facing a very high-powered offensive team that loves to capitalize on turnovers, and I think we limited that pretty well tonight. We played well defensively and that's our focus right now. Offensively, we could probably do a bit better. … But we're creating a lot of zone time. Both teams had the puck a lot and had some chances, and that's all you can ask."

Monahan drew first blood for Team White only seconds after a powerplay expired. He scooped up a loose puck in the slot, took one step into the middle and fired it short side. 

Mid. Season. Form.

Despite being beat by two of the best early, Rittich was incredibly sharp throughout the contest. He made a splendid pad save on Monahan only moments after the icebreaker, and then came up with a beautiful glove save off an Alexander Yelesin one-timer late in the second period.

The 45-ft. rocket sailed through traffic and appeared to sting him briefly, but his efforts earned hearty praise from the Team Red bench - especially his partner, Talbot, who leaned over the boards to offer a cheer.

White opened up a two-goal lead at 13:59 following a miscommunication at the Red bench. Gaudreau read the play well, stepped up and intercepted a pass in the neutral zone before scooting in alone. With his patented head fake and quick hands in tight, Gaudreau slid it five-hole to make it a 2-0 game. 

"I think Johnny's looked good all camp," appraised captain Mark Giordano. "I also think Mony has really flown under the radar so far; he's skating really well and making a lot of plays, a lot of passes that are really high-quality.

"I think our forward group has looked really good."

In the third period, the team worked heavily on special teams, with both squads getting an extended look with their No. 1 powerplay units. 

With 2:20 left and at the very end of an already long shift, Tobias Rieder grabbed a loose puck near the benches and sped off on a breakaway. With Noah Hanifin charging back and closing the gap, Rieder made a great move in tight, stopping on a dime inside the blue paint and tucking it far side around the right leg of Rittich.

 

THE LINEUP:

TEAM WHITE:

Forwards

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Sam Bennett

Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder

Alan Quine - Austin Czarnik

Defence

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Derek Forbort - Erik Gustafsson

Juuso Valimaki - Alexander Yelesin

Goalies

Jon Gillies

Artyom Zagidulin


TEAM RED:

Forwards

Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Andrew Mangiapane

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube

Adam Ruzicka - Byron Froese - Buddy Robinson

Defence

Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson

Oliver Kylington - Michael Stone

Connor Mackey

Goalies

David Rittich

Cam Talbot

Did not play: Elias Lindholm, Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin

 

GOING FORWARD:

On Sunday, the Flames will trek three hours north and check into their hotel in Edmonton for what they hope will be extended stay in the Alberta capital. 

Hub life, ya'll. 

 

Video: Life in the Secure Zone

 

"To me it's going to be like a hockey tournament when I was younger," Tkachuk said. "You'd go to the hotel, you'd go to the rink, you're looking at the scores of the other games and you're seeing people in the elevators and in the restaurants. It's going to be crazy. Looking at this as a whole, I think every single person outside of the bubble is going to have a million questions for us when we get home. 

"It's up to us to make the most of it."

The Flames will play the 'hometown' Oilers in their first (and only) exhibition tilt on Tuesday, before opening their Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 8:30 p.m. MT. 

"If you ask anyone, we're kind of sick of playing against each other," Tkachuk said. "We want to get out there and get some real games going. I think we've done well to this point, but we're going on to the real thing now."

"That game on Tuesday - win or lose - we have to play the way we need to play to be successful against the Winnipeg Jets.

"I'm sick of losing. I'm sick of losing in these first rounds and we all want a bit of that redemption after last year. It's time to prove we're an elite hockey team and having that layoff, I feel our team looks pretty good. 

"We're ready to roll."

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