The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets have had two lopsided games through the first two games of their series. In a series that was slated to be dominated by goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, it hasn’t been entirely so. Out of the 10 goals scored in the series so, four goals have been scored by a member of the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames special teams. Even when a unit doesn’t score a goal, the momentum that is created by a successful penalty kill or high-intensity power-play shifts the flow of the game.
Red Hot Power Play
The Flames power play was the star contributor to their Game One win over the Jets. The power-play unit went two-for-five that night, counting for half of their goals scored in the game. The three other attempts might not have resulted in a goal being scored, but when even-strength play resumed, any life the Jets had in them was immediately suffocated by the high-intensity, fast-moving power play. The puck stayed on the sticks of the Flames players as they continued to move the puck around the zone. It was almost as if they were still set-up on the power play regardless of the man advantage expiring. The smooth transition between man advantage and even strength play gave the team more opportunities to test Hellebuyck. The flames had 33 shots on goal in comparison to the Jets 18.
Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund netted both power-play goals for the team and had two of their three combined shots on the power play. Of their 33, a third of them were when the team was during the power play. This isn’t to say that the Jets penalty kill hasn’t been solid, either. They killed off three penalties in game one and killed six full penalties and a 44 second 5v4 at the end of the game. Whatever Paul Maurice and his coaching staff did to the kill between games one and two, it worked. Their penalty killers blocked shots left and right, being lead by Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry. Trade-deadline acquisition, Nick Shore, is also proving his worth on the penalty kill unit for the Jets.
Both teams have been able to kill their penalties pretty well. The Jets, specifically, are picking up right where they left off when the regular season ended in March. They have an 80% success rate when down a man, a slight improvement to their 77.6 percent success rate from the regular season. Continuing his role as one of, if not their most valuable, penalty killers, Hellebuyck has done the most between the pipes. When his team committed seven penalties in game two, he turned the intensity up a few notches. This gave the team confidence and gave them time to clear the puck out and run the clock down. The defence has been stepping up too, contesting more shots and blocking attempts like the top-defensive team they need to be to keep the Flames rush at bay.
The Flames have been keeping pucks out of the net when down a man just as well, scoring a short-handed goal in game one. Tobias Rieder, the goal scorer, has shown to be a useful piece in the penalty-killing unit. Rieder desperately needed the boost in confidence to his game, as he is still fighting to prove that he is a consistent NHL talent in today’s game. The Flames have killed off 92 percent of penalties, allowing only one goal in Game Two. Sadly this goal was the game-winner for the Jets, scored by Nikolaj Ehlers. Besides the one slip-up, however, finding space to make a run at the net has been hard to do. When a shot does come through, however, Cam Talbot has risen to the occasion and kept it in front of him for a few quality saves.
Game Three Plan
Neither the Winnipeg Jets nor Calgary Flames special teams have been able to fully take advantage of the other at even strength. Both games have been polar opposites from the other. Game One was a lopsided, offence heavy victory for Calgary. While Game Two was a technically more sound, better defensive showing from Winnipeg. Game Three is anyone’s game. Patrik Laine or Mark Scheifele could be back for game three. Whether they make the lineup or not will play heavily into the scoring outcome of the game for the Jets.
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