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Five things to watch when the Calgary Flames take on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4:
1) The MMA line.
To say they’ve been dominant in this series would be an understatement. They have controlled ~65% of the expected goals, a remarkable number, and rank 1st, 3rd, and 4th among Flames forwards in shots on goal at 5v5. That has translated into results, with Mangiapane and Backlund being the lone Flames with multiple points at full-strength. I think they have played extremely well and, with Winnipeg controlling the matchups, they’ll get more time against depth players to capitalize offensively. I’m looking for another big game from them.
2) A breakthrough from the top unit.
Johnny Gaudreau and co. saw a lot of Josh Morrissey last time out. It didn’t go well. In a little more than 7 minutes of head-to-head time, the Jets won the shot attempt battle 11-3 and the Flames were held to just one scoring chance (it was not high-danger). Morrissey is a good player, of course, but the Flames are going to see better defense pairings than Morrissey and Dylan DeMelo should they advance. If the top line can’t generate *anything* against them, the Flames are not going to last very long. The top line must be more dangerous at 5v5.
3) Sleeping dogs.
Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler have surprisingly not produced much in this series, combining for just two points in three games. That’s not good enough, especially considering all of the power play ice they’ve had to work with. It’s do or die time now. Paul Maurice made it no secret he’s expecting big games from them tonight and, with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine either out or playing at well under 100%, they’ll no doubt be given all the ice time they can handle. I have a feeling they’re going to get their chances – they’re too good to stay this quiet – so Cam Talbot best be ready.
Calgary is spending 9:33 per game killing penalties, the most out of any team in the bubble. I don’t care if their PK unit is playing well. I don’t care if Winnipeg is missing some of their weapons. That simply can’t be acceptable. The Jets are understandably having a difficult time creating offense without some of their best players. By taking all of these penalties, the Flames are letting the Jets off the hook and giving them offensive opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to create. They have to be smart and cut some of these penalties out of their game.
5) Unleashing the beast.
Nik Ehlers ranks 1st on the Jets in goals, shots, shot attempts, and rush attempts in this series. He’s leading the charge offensively in almost every category despite ranking 10th on the Jets in ice time. With the way he’s playing, and some of the big dogs out, I would expect Paul Maurice to give him more opportunity in this game – especially if the Jets are playing from behind. That could be problematic as the Flames have had a heck of a time getting on top of him and taking away his speed through the neutral zone. They need to do a better job in this one.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
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