CALGARY — Plus-5, four points, three goals, two new hats and one hell of a way to open a pre-season for Matt Coronato.
OK, so the number of caps thrown by fans needed work, but everything else at the Dome in Sunday’s pre-season opener went perfectly in a 10-0 win over Vancouver Coronato will never forget.
“It feels good,” said the smiling 20-year-old Harvard hotshot who is essentially a lock to open the season in the Flames’ top six.
“When you play with good players, it makes the game easier.”
If the pre-season is about building confidence and chemistry, the Calgary Flames couldn’t have been happier with their start, especially Coronato.
As he demonstrated against a skeleton squad of Canucks, his success has plenty to do with his world-class release.
“His shot is one of the best shots I’ve seen,” said Jonathan Huberdeau of his new locker mate.
“He’s a quiet guy — I think he was focusing. I didn’t really talk to him, I didn’t want to disturb him. But I guess it worked out, so I won’t talk to him.”
Much-needed laughs all around for a Flames club hellbent on wiping the slate clean from last season, when Coronato made his NHL debut on the final night.
In his pre-season debut, his finish was the talk of the town, with his first goal coming in tight on the power play, when his redirect of a point shot led to a rebound he roofed while falling to the ice.
He followed it up a period later by one-timing a turnover in the slot, and finishing another beauty in the third, shortly after setting up Ben Jones with a nifty steal from behind the net.
All told, the trio had 10 points.
“Some guys have a gift that they just know how to hit a puck and I think he’s one of them,” said Flames coach Ryan Huska.
“When you can shoot it hard like he can, that makes a goal scorer, for sure.”
A look at the other standouts on the night:
The organization is going to give him every opportunity to prove the stretch in which he scored 20 points in 24 games last season wasn’t a fluke.
They know the big man can shield the puck, create offence and be an impact player, but he needs to do it with more regularity.
He opened the pre-season on Kadri’s left side and will stay there as a top-sixer as long as he remains engaged and effective.
On this night he finished with three assists, which included a nifty setup on Connor Zary’s goal on the second power-play unit.
“This is a moment for him where he’s got to grab hold of it,” said Huska.
“He’s going to get an opportunity.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations over the summer with him about having that opportunity, but he has to really take it on himself.
“He needs to decide where he wants to fit and where he wants to be, and that’s now what it’s going to come down to. When you look at him, you’re like, ‘If this guy can figure it out and be consistent with the way he plays the game …’”
A tic-tac-toe drag and release had the crowd buzzing early – one of two top-shelf snipes the two-time 30-goal scorer opened the pre-season with.
It came on the power play when he corralled a Kadri pass, made a nifty toe drag and roofed it, showing signs the swagger he was missing last season is back.
In his first shift back after a knee-on-knee hit with Matt Irwin sent him to the room, he took another Kadri pass and roofed it.
“I guess I’m a shooter now,” he said, chuckling.
“I heard it a lot last year from the stands, so I had to shoot. It felt great. Good for the confidence.”
The Flames’ only free agent signing of the summer played on a D-pairing with Chris Tanev and promptly opened pre-season scoring with a shot from the point that bounced off the skates of two Canucks defenders on its way into the net.
Welcome to Calgary.
He later ripped one off the crossbar from a tight angle during a penalty kill.
Oesterle will be battling Dennis Gilbert for the roster spot left open if Oliver Kylington doesn’t return.
Huska pointed out his performance was under the radar and “it looked like him and (Tanev) had played together all season.”
Involved, engaged — exactly what Flames fans craved the second half of the season from him.
A filthy backhanded roof-job in tight, two assists, two penalties and he drew one as well.
All good signs.
Didn’t look out of place on the top line with Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm, showing good speed and creativity. He was the one who started the beauty, three-way passing play that finished with Huberdeau’s first on the power play.
He was also the first one over the boards with Lindholm on every penalty kill.
A solid start.
Highlighted by a glove snare on Nils Aman and sliding pad save on Jack Studnicka, Markstrom looked large and in charge while making saves on all 20 shots he faced. He gave way to Oscar Dansk in the third.
Takes exception to a hit on him and promptly fights Matt Irwin.
He’s in the mix with Oesterle to be Kylington’s replacement and it’s his toughness that will likely land him plenty of NHL starts this season.
Left the game in the second after falling awkwardly and smashing his head on the boards.
Skated off with help after lying motionless for a few minutes – a likely concussion isn’t the best way to open a season.
“He’s OK, that’s the good news,” reported Huska.
Coming off his third-straight title as the fittest Flame in testing, he made good on his second-line assignment alongside Kadri and Ruzicka, piling up three assists.
Huberdeau – Lindholm – Sharangovich
Ruzicka – Kadri – Dube
Hunt – Jones – Coronato
Pospisil – Zary – Klapka
Hanifin – Andersson
Oesterle – Tanev
Solovyov – Gilbert