Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell
Five notes from Calgary’s series clinching win over Winnipeg:
They say you need your best game to eliminate a team from the playoffs. The Flames definitely brought it last night. They were all over the Jets from the get go and mostly able to sustain that throughout. At times in the series they struggled truly breaking Winnipeg down and getting to high-danger areas of the ice. That wasn’t an issue in Game 4. The Flames were all around the net and generated chance after chance against Connor Hellebuyck. While the Jets weren’t completely out of the game until the final few minutes, it easily could have been a lot sooner. Calgary definitely created enough quality looks to put them away.
I thought the 3rd line was exceptional. It was undoubtedly their best performance of the entire season. I loved the way they smothered Winnipeg’s defense. Any time a defender touched the puck they had about one second to make a play before getting finished. That relentless pressure led to a lot of broken plays and turnovers. Calgary’s 3rd line didn’t get fancy trying to capitalize either. They recovered the pucks and got them directly to the paint.
As we saw in the graphic above, the Flames registered a lot of chances in high-danger areas and it was the 3rd line doing the heavy lifting. Dillon Dube alone had five(!) Grade A chances at 5v5. Winnipeg’s entire team had four. Dube was consistently able to find space to generate quality shots and the forechecking of Sam Bennett and Milan Lucic allowed them to keep turning pucks over and feeding him. I’ve been hard on the 3rd line – particularly Bennett and Lucic – throughout the year but they have brought their A game for the playoffs. They deserve a lot of credit.
It wasn’t all positive for Calgary. Concerns about their top line remain. They spent more than 11 minutes together at full-strength and created just .07 expected goals. They didn’t record a single quality scoring chance. Not one. They were also caved in possession-wise, posting a game-worst 30% Corsi For.
The one thing I will praise is the effort, especially from Johnny Gaudreau. He tried to play with pace and make things happen. He was also committed defensively, making hustle plays – such as tracking Jack Roslovic down on a developing chance – to take away from Winnipeg’s attack. If the top line isn’t going to produce, they need to make more defensive plays like that.
Cam Talbot was rock solid once again. He didn’t face many *top tier* chances, as per usual against Winnipeg, but he passed with flying colours the few times he was tested. Talbot stopped 31-31 and never gave the Jets any life in their comeback attempt. Deservedly or not, the Jets hung around until the very end of the game. All it would have taken was one mistake to ignite their team. One mistake. And it never came. That’s been the MO with Talbot this playoffs. He didn’t fill highlight shows with content, but he also did nothing to give Winnipeg any rope to hold onto. He made all the stops he was supposed to, and that’s all the Flames really needed.
It was really nice to see the Flames stay out of the box. They took two minor penalties, which was honestly refreshing given how many times they were sent to the sin bin (15!) in three games prior. Their next opponent, whoever it may be, is going to have a better power play than Winnipeg so it’s important they stay disciplined. All of the teams on bye will make them pay if not. St. Louis ranks 3rd in PP goals per 60 minutes. Vegas and Dallas also rank top-12, and the lone team that doesn’t (Colorado) has a ton of firepower that was simply unavailable for much of the year. The Flames would be the first to tell you it won’t end well if you parade to the box vs Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, and company. They won’t have a chance if they take a handful of penalties per game.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com
Calgary’s top-4 is better without Hamonic in it
Travis Hamonic opts out of NHL restart
On the Flames’ rumored interest in Josh Anderson
No amnesty clause means Milan Lucic is sticking around
Most underrated player on the Flames?
Mark Giordano: long underrated, and long underpaid
Three potential platoon targets for the Flames
Ranking Calgary Flames contracts: Part 2
Ranking Calgary Flames contracts: Part 1