The Jets won a wild, woolly game against the Bruins on Thursday. Tonight’s opponent, the Calgary Flames, presented a much stiffer challenge. Calgary’s aggressive forecheck, dangerous depth players, and red-hot top-6 threatened to make this evening a bit bitter. The Flames are one of the best teams in the West, and with good reason. Winnipeg would need a bit of the luck of the Irish to pull off a victory.
The First Period
Winnipeg started the proceedings promisingly. The Jets skaters applied immediate pressure to Calgary’s defenders and generated some early offensive zone possession. While Winnipeg’s slot offence didn’t hit paydirt early on, the team had a few quality lucks from the top line. An early Jets power play came close to giving Winnipeg the lead, but good fortune was in short supply.
That is, until Calgary started ringing shots off the post. Johnny Gaudreau found himself in open space in front of Hellebuyck, catching Nate Beaulieu in poor gap coverage. The shot whipped past Hellebuyck and rang off the outside post. Phew. On another offensive rush, Mark Jankowski tapped one of the crossbar. Gaudreau got to Beaulieu again and added a third ping, this one a beautiful backhand that barely missed clipping the corner over Hellebuyck’s shoulder.
Things were a bit bleak until Sami Niku did his offensive zone magic and sliced through the Calgary defensive unit. Sami dropped low between the faceoff circles and found Ben Chiarot completely unmarked. Chiarot had an open net, with Mike Smith flailing about....and zipped the puck over the bar. His error was atoned for with less than a minute remaining. On an icing from Calgary’s bottom-6, Chiarot dangled and dropped low on the left wing, catching Jankowski alone. Scheifele was waiting for an easy tap-in to Jankowski’s right and Chiarot delivered. Winnipeg, despite getting a bit of a beatdown, led 1-0. Luck of the Irish indeed....
The Second Period
That.....was a weird 20 minutes. Neither the Flames nor Jets generated much at even-strength. This second frame felt like an afternoon, lazy stroll more than a hockey game. All the scoring action came on the power play, and not how you’d imagine. The Jets dodged an early penalty call against Myers for gloving the puck, then got a 4-minute power play courtesy of an errant Flames high stick. To compensate Calgary for the bad officiating, the Jets spent the first minute of the power play looking lost. Scheifele took the shift off and watched as the Flames led a counter and scored a short-handed goal. Everyone was to blame there, but Scheifele failing to back-check and cover was bizarre.
A few minutes later, Mathieu Perreault managed to jam the puck over a mess of bodies in the Calgary net, putting the Jets up 2-1. Like the even-strength play, everything before that goal was relatively listless and quiet. That Winnipeg managed to convert on the power play at all was a minor miracle. The Jets closed the period out with the scoreline advantage, but I can’t say I felt comfortable that they’d maintain that lead.
The Third Period
It feels like Winnipeg let the Flames do their darnedest to score and tie the game. The Jets applied very little offensive pressure and allowed Calgary continually create offensive rushes and zone time. On a number of occasions, the Jets defending was absolutely atrocious, and I thought Calgary was surely going to tie the game. Miracle upon miracles, Hellebuyck stood tall and kept the Flames from making me angsty. Winnipeg needs to let its skaters engage puck-carriers and disrupt plays a lot more than they do. Their defensive coverage is insanely passive and, consequently, very vulnerable. For tonight, however, Winnipeg squeaked out a win against a strong team.
- Hellebuyck was pretty good.
- The Jets won!
- Blegh, this was about as ugly a win as they come.