The Calgary Flames finished their qualifying series against the Winnipeg Jets in fiery fashion. Calgary blew their way past the Jets into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.with a four-goal shut-out in Game Four. The Flames offence blew past the Winnipeg Jets defence, proving it takes more than a Vezina-calibre goalie to get past a team.
Winnipeg Jets Defence Not Enough
It was the team’s worst aspect going into the qualifying round against Calgary. The Winnipeg Jets defence were at a severe disadvantage from the start, going up against the Flames is no easy task. What’s most frustrating about the Jets’ loss to Calgary is that the issues that haunted the team in the regular season were their downfall when it mattered most. A top pairing of Josh Morrissey and Dylan DeMelo is not the ideal group to go up against a fast top-six that has Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Sean Monahan on it. Add in a just as mediocre second-pairing of Dmitry Kulikov and Neal Pionk, and the Jets were set up to fail from the opening puck drop.
Missing Their Mark
Game Two was the team’s best defensive showing, only allowing two goals from 30 shots on net. They were able to suppress the rush well as they gave goaltender Connor Hellebuyck a clear vision on shots. Overall the Jets played a competent defensive game. This was the only time this happened in the whole series. Just looking at the scores of the following games, one can see that the defence wasn’t able to perform nearly as well. They allowed six goals in Game Three and four in their most recent game. Taking a deeper dive, and you will find a defensively irresponsible team, forwards and all. On the Tkachuk goal in Game Three, the forward who should have been marking him in the slot gets puck tracked, leaving him open for the dangerous shot he was able to score from.
This was a consistent problem during the series. In Game Four the irresponsibility continued. On both goals where Hellebuyck was in net, players were either a step-off or not close to where they needed to be to properly defend the play. On the Dillon Dude goal, for example, he was able to easily gain inside positioning on the defending player.
Hellebuyck was not his regular-season self. Besides being hung out to dry by the defence on many occasions, he wasn’t as sharp as he was before the pause. After four games he hosts a .892 save percentage. On the other side of the matchup, however, Cam Talbot had found his rhythm early. In Game One, Talbot helped his team shut out the Jets on all seven power plays. In the last three games, he only allowed two goals when down a man. Stuffing the Jets on eight other attempts. Talbot’s last playoff appearance was back during the 2017 playoffs. He was a member of the Edmonton Oilers and had played in 13 games with them. Through them, he put up an impressive .924 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against-average. In a much smaller sample size of four games, he’s matched his success between the pipes.
The series was a back-and-forth one, to say the least. Both teams seemed to be plagued by penalties, forcing their special teams to play to dictate games. The Jets were injured for much of the series, too. Losing stars Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Mathieu Perreault didn’t help their case for a potential come back. Considering the leadership roles all of those players hold, losing them in a series where the Jets were losing was a blow to morale. The turning point of the series came when Hellebuyck and Pionk had a miscommunication behind the net. This led to the flood gates opening and the Jets never recovering.
Calgary played as fiery as their logo. They applied the pressure and didn’t let up until the final horn sounded. They’ll have at least five days to get ready for their round one series. Whoever they play, the Flames have proven they are a team that can play well and a team that plans to be in the bubble as long a possible.
Embed from Getty Images