After a four game Eastern Conference road trip, the Winnipeg Jets (3-1-0) return to the MTS Centre for their 2015-16 home opener against the Calgary Flames (1-2-0). Both teams enter this match having last played Tuesday, the Flames having been smothered by St. Louis, while the Jets bounced back from a tough loss to defeat the Rangers 4-1. Last season, the Jets had a 1-2 record against the Flames, losing their first two meetings 4-1 and 5-2, before winning 5-1.
Catch the game at 7:00 PM Central Time on Sportsnet Flames, TSN3 and TSN 1290.
Winnipeg Jets, as per @BrianMunzTSN :
Ladd – Little – WheelerPerreault – Scheifele – EhlersBurmistrov – Lowry – StaffordPetan – Copp – Thorburn
Pardy – ByfuglienEnstrom – MyersStuart – Trouba
Gaudreau - Monahan - HudlerBennett - Backlund - FrolikFerland - Stajan - JonesRaymond - Jooris - Bollig
Giordano - HamiltonRussell - WidemanKulak - Engelland
Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets
A Balanced Approach: Despite some middling-to-worrying small sample size #fancystats, the line combinations thus far seem to have done the scoring trick. Perreault has four assists, Scheifele three goals, and both Stafford and Ehlers possess a trio of points each. And after seeming rather invisible for much of Game #3 against the Isles, the top-line showed up in a big way against the Rangers. The ability to roll three scoring lines is a wonderful thing, and even if one trio struggles against the Flames, the Jets can reasonably expect others in the top-nine to fill the void.
Cancel The Penalty Parade: In the 2nd period vs. the Rangers, Winnipeg grumbled and muttered their way to the penalty box five times. A game prior, the first two periods against the Islanders were an equally unpleasant, PIM-filled affair. It should come as no surprise that the Jets found themselves facing a lot of rubber in those periods mentioned. Being physical and imposing one's will is great and all, but I'd rather not have to count on a Bryan Little shorthanded goal, thank you very much.
Continued Excellence: Credit where credit is due, as both Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec have been superb to start the season. Pavelec, the expected starter tonight, has a .932 SV% and a .942 even strength SV%. And with early returns seeing Winnipeg allow the 5th most shots against per game, both goalies have needed to be sharp. Unless the Jets return to their dominant possession ways of last season, exceptional might have to become the norm.
Calling Yanic Perreault: The Jets have been atrocious on faceoffs. Scheifele leads the regular takers at 46.3%, followed by Little at 44.2% and Lowry at 41.2%. As a team, their faceoff winning percentage of 43.0% is dead last in the NHL; 29th place Edmonton is at 46.2%. Small sample sizes skew percentages, and there is debate as to the value of faceoffs, but it's an area in need of improvement nonetheless
Keys to the Game: Calgary Flames
With Great ATOI Comes Great Responsibility: In the absence of TJ Brodie, out week-to-week with a broken bone in his hand, the Flames have been leaning heavily on their top-four D of Wideman, Russell, Giordano and Hamilton. Of that necessity (unless you want to give more minutes to Deryk Engelland and Brett Kulak), the d-corps has four points total, with three of those being assists from Wideman. More is needed from a Flames blueline considered an area of strength going into 2015-16.
Poke the Bear: The Calgary Flames last season were a surprisingly disciplined team, and three games into 2015-16 that trend is continuing. But while they probably won't fly off the handle, their opposition just might. If the Calgary Flames aren't going to win the 5-on-5 battle, and it's quite imaginable they won't, goad the Jets and take the battle to special teams. Micheal Ferland alone might be enough to do the trick.
Play It Like Pavelec: Remember I mentioned how the Winnipeg Jets' goalies have been excellent? The same cannot be said for Calgary's netminders. Tonight's reported starter, Karri Ramo, had a rough beginning to the season: a 5.00 GAA and .886 SV% in his only game thus far. Rather similar to Winnipeg's tandem, the Flames do not have a definitive #1 guy; Ramo will need to be better than mediocre, for his own future as much as the team's.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
Michael Frolik. I love the player and wish he was dressing for the Winnipeg Jets tonight, but he isn't. He is now a member of the opposition, one who possesses insider systems knowledge and made Pavelec pay for steak dinner yesterday afternoon. Boo Frolik mercilessly.
Winnipeg keep their heads on straight and dominate a mostly 5-on-5 affair. Jets 5, Flames 1.