Playoff games take place in April. If your team succeeds they stretch into May and in recent years all the way to June.
So when it’s suggested two teams locked in for a playoff type game in January it should be taken with a grain of salt. The Winnipeg Jets, in arrears of the Flames in the standings, certainly treated this one as a playoff game, as the club looked to pick itself up and move on without rookie Patrick Laine who was dropped by an open ice hit in Buffalo on the weekend.
The game was physical, fast paced, and neither team gave an inch though the home side was much more effective at finishing in a 2-0 victory in Manitoba on Monday night. The win moves the Jets to just one point back of the L.A. Kings for the final wildcard spot as the West grew tighter with Jets and Stars victories while the Flames and Kings went down to defeats.
A very open first period for both clubs as they traded chances and pretty much through caution to the wind, likely to the disgust of their head coaches. The Flames had the majority of the chances, but the chances themselves often led to extending themselves and creating odd man chances the other way. The Jets scored on just that type of play when a Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk two on one resulted in a save and then the puck going the other way for Dustin Byfuglien who caught Mark Giordano flat footed and beat Chad Johnson short side. Score 1-0 Winnipeg through one period.
A good start to the second by the Flames, but then the Jets came on and pretty much dominated from the five minute mark on. Early on the Flames have back to back solid shifts to start the game but can’t solve Hellebucyk on any of their opportunities. The Jets get the game’s best two chances of the period, the first on a Ehlers breakaway which was stopped by Johnson went he attempted to go five hole. And then later Michael Frolik makes a terrible back pass that ends up in a botched chance for the Jets when the Flames converge. Late in the period Johnny Gaudreau gets sprung but falls victim to the Hellebucyk poke check when he tries to go to his forehand. No change in score, 1-0 Jets after two.
The Flames start the third with some good zip, generating chances and enjoying a good stint in the Jets zone. TJ Brodie ends all that on a cough up though to Wheeler on a play where Wheeler’s minor hook caused Brodie to whiff on a D to D pass to his partner Wideman. Wheeler walks in and makes the game 2-0 Winnipeg. The teams go back and forth through the middle part of the period with Johnson making a few good saves against the Jets top line and the Flames getting close but not really getting the blue chip chance they are looking for. Like we see often though, the Flames don’t quit and make it a game with a late Gaudreau breakaway and an ensuing powerplay. But in the end they Flames fail to solve Hellebucyk and drop a 2-0 decision.
First Period – The shot attempts met the eye test for me as the Flames had the lead in shot attempts 16-8, but trailed in scoring chances 6-5.
Second Period – The underlying stats match what you’d expect to see once again as the Jets get the 15-8 edge in shot attempts and a 9-3 edge in scoring chances.
Third Period – Five on five shot attempts read like a closer period, 11-9 Winnipeg, but the Jets had the majority of the dangerous chances with a 9-5 edge.
Players – The Flame’s fourth line simply owned it with Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma at 90% and Garnet Hathaway not far behind. Other guys with good nights included the Monahan line, the Brodie/Wideman pairing (despite a rough third period) and Dougie Hamilton. The Jokipakka/Engelland pairing got dominated and posted numbers in the low 30% range, and team’s pulse, the Backlund line were a sketchy 41%; something we don’t see very often.
1. Conner Hellebucyk:Not entirely sure he was tested all that much, but he had a solid first ten minutes of the game, when Calgary was carrying the play and the Jets were looking to find their legs.
2. Dustin Byfuglien:A goal and 29 minutes of rough and tumble work.
3. Chad Johnson:No let down from Chad Johnson, as he gave the Flames everything they needed to win.
Chad Johnson was forced to make a save on a Nicolai Ehlers breakaway in the second period, a shifty player who tries to go five hole but is foiled by a very calm Calgary goaltender. We’ve said it before, but Chad Johnson has a very similar style to Carey Price in that he doesn’t over react to anything; very calm.
This one is easy I’m afraid as TJ Brodie’s giveaway in the third period made the game all but over, the mountain too steep to climb. The defender has been inching towards his former self of late so just chalk this one up to bad luck, as he was partially hooked.
Matt Stajan. We can say this so often this season, but Matt Stajan once again came to play. His line was the team’s best when it comes to pushing the play, all three played physical, and are never a liability.
Odds and Ends
The Flames went with the same lineup that beat the Canucks on Saturday night, with Jokipakka back in for Wotherspoon, and Hathaway in for Freddie Hamilton. Zero surprise that Chad Johnson got the start given his timely saves and first star turn on Saturday night; good to see him back. … There were some changes in popcorn alley however, as Brett Kulak is back up with Tyler Wotherspoon heading back to Stockton. With the rough game that Wotherspoon had on Friday night I’m not surprised, and I do wonder if the Flames are going to move past him either now or in the near future. I think the game has changed too much for his style since being draft; he doesn’t seem suited for the quick decision in his own zone and is turnover prone. …. This won’t be the first time I’ve mentioned this, but it was good to see Johnny Gaudreau try something new on his breakaway move in the third period; he was doing the same thing every single time. Come in go right, and then try and go around the right pad on his forehand. The whole league knows it. He needs to go high on a chance to keep them guessing. … A rare off night for the team’s most consistent line, as the Backlund, Frolik, Tkachuk combination got hemmed in their own zone and even stuck on the ice at one point in the second for almost two minutes. Individually Frolik made a horrendous giveaway, and Tkachuk got knocked off his skates all night (though taking on Byfuglien will do that). Old time stats for you? All three were -2 on the night. Not the night I’m guessing Matthew Tkachuk was hoping to have in one of his dad’s former cities. … I’ll keep saying this until I’m blue in the fact but this team really needs a young defenseman to surprise and move up the roster into the 5th spot. Probably asking too much for that to happen this season, but next season with expected departures by at least two bottom half defenseman, it won’t be enough to just add another young guy as a 7. Denis Wideman hasn’t been bad this season, but he shouldn’t be a four. And the team just doesn’t have a five strong enough to carry what the club walks out as a 6. Their leaking chances nightly …
Back home for a Wednesday night game against the San Jose Sharks. Game time 7.30 pm (better than the 8pm I was bracing for) on Sportsnet.
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Ferland – Bennett – Versteeg
Gaudreau – Monahan – Chiasson
Hathaway – Stajan – Bouma
Giordano – Engelland
Brodie – Wideman