Calgary Flames vs Winnipeg Jets Preview
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Tale Of The Tape
PP% 21.2 (12th) | 2.91 GF/G (20th)
PK% 82.1 (8th) | 3.06 GA/G (16th)
PP% 20.5 (15th) | 3.00 GF/G (17th)
PK% 77.6 (22nd) | 2.83 GA/G (22nd)
It would be hard to find two more evenly matched teams. These clubs had nearly identical records apart from one Winnipeg OT victory, and that came at the expense of none other than the Calgary Flames. All that separated these teams in the standings was one OT Goal. This series is going to be a nail-biter.
The Flames have had consistency issues in net all season. Rittich started out hot and looked poised as the starter in Calgary, but a nasty slump in 2020 really hurt his numbers.
The Jets have the advantage here with Vezina Candidate Hellebuyck, who has arguably been the Jets’ best player this season.
The Flames have either been red-hot, or ice-cold, for most of this season. They had two six-game losing streaks followed by some really red stretches. Their calendar appears as sparks and raindrops.
Johnny Hockey has been inconsistent as well with 58 points in 70 games really brought down the team. He’ll need to be better if the Flames have a chance in these playoffs.
The Winnipeg D Train
The Jets tried an interesting strategy this year by completely abandoning D. There have been some bright spots, like Neal Pionk who has taken over as PP Quarterback.
Pionk has been more than a suitable replacement for Trouba. But other than that, things are little dicey. Poolman and Bitetto have done their best, but really Calgary seems to enjoy the advantage on D.
The Flames are sitting on an all-world defensive core in Giordano, Brodie, Hanifin, Hamonic R. Andersson. This series will be decided by whether the Jets’ Forwards are able to generate sustained pressure off this stingy, hard-hitting, veteran group.
Calgary’s Line Blender
The Flames seemingly threw names in a hat and came out with some of the strangest lines we've ever seen. But it worked! Interesting enough as that is, it has really revealed some deepness in this team. Players like Derek Ryan, Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane really took a step to the forefront, all posting career seasons.
This has been both good and bad for the Flames. The advancement of those "outer core" players seems to have exposed a potential liability in a quickly trending down Sean Monahan. Monahan managed only 15 points in this final 28 games, and saw limited time with his waterbottle-sharing partner-in-crime Johnny Gaudreau. Is it possible this flame-powered frieght train is running out of steam?
With Love, From Backlundia
The real X-Factor in this series and for this team will be Mikael Backlund. This guy has been on an absolute tear in 2020 with 28 points in 28 games to lead the Flames. Yes, that is correct. In 2020 Backlund is the leading scorer of the Calgary Flames.
Much of this has to do with deployment. Backlund and Johnny Gaudreau seemed to develop a chemistry together, especially down the stretch. This might have serious implications for Sean Monahan owners in Fantasy Hockey for next season as well, as the trend seems to be pointing straight in Backlund’s direction.
But can we even call that the First Line anymore? Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk have been the engine for this team all season. It seems evident at this point the face of the franchise will be Tkachuk, and not Gaudreau, going forward. Tkachuk did it all this season: From highlight-reel goals to last-minute heroics, from endless banter to fisticuffs. If there was something happening in Calgary, Tkachuk was right in the middle of it.
No one will forget the Battle Of Alberta Remake featuring Mike Smith and Cam Talbot, themselves the former goalie for their now rival, duking it out at center ice. These are the things legends are made from. That was all triggered by the agitator Tkachuk.
Winnipeg has something to prove
After losing in consecutive years to the eventual Stanley Cup Finalist (St. Louis 2019, Vegas 2018), the Jets mean business.
Anyone who watched the Jets elimination game against the Blues in the First Round last season will easily be able to attest to this. Captain Blake Wheeler took a five-minute roughing major near the end of the game, and he went off steaming. Rarely do we get to see a captain with so much raw passion. Look for the Jets to rally behind their captain during this series.
Connor The Condor
Kyle Connor had 38 goals this season, good for 6th in the league. He led the team in scoring which might surprise people. The line of Connor-Schiefele-Laine really clicked all season. Expect this trio to stay together to add fuel to the Jets take off. Kyle should fly alongside like a faithful Condor, soaring through the sky.
This one really could go either way. Both of these teams have enormous fire-power and can get hot very quickly. Calgary seems to have a slight advantage on D; but Winnipeg seems to hold the balance on offence and in goaltending. We’ve all seen what Mark Schiefele can do in the Playoffs, and Kyle Connor is the “next” big thing in the prairies. I think these two will be the decisive factors.
Winnipeg in 5.
David Rittich 24-17-2, .907, 2.97
Cam Talbot 12-10-2, .919, 2.64
Connor Hellebuyck 31-21-6, .922, 2.57
Laurent Brossoit 6-7-0, .895, 3.28
Matthew Tkachuck: 61 Points
Johnny Gaudreau: 58 Points
Kyle Connor: 73 Points
Scheifele: 73 Points
Wheeler: 65 Points