Winnipeg’s post-season run began with a strong outing against the Calgary Flames, but that optimism lasted a whopping 5 minutes before Mark Scheifele was injured in a collision with Matthew Tkachuk. The Jets centre took a rogue skate from Tkachuk to the back of the ankle and went down in a heap, unable to stand under his own power. From then on, the tone of the game shifted dramatically and Winnipeg struggled to create much of anything in a dispiriting 4-1 loss.
The First Period
Things looked very bright before Scheifele’s injury. The Jets forwards looked up to the task of dispatching the Flames and were able to exit their own zone a lot more frequently than they did against Vancouver. Winnipeg’s depth players were creating quality offensive looks against Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and the Jets were outshooting Calgary 7-1 in just a matter of minutes.
Once Scheifele exited the game, the Jets were still in the driver’s seat for a stretch. Calgary wasn’t getting much going at all and took some time to warm up. Once the Flames started skating, though, the Jets began to struggle mightily. Despite the onslaught of Calgary rushes, most of which weren’t amazingly dangerous, the Jets struck first with a well-worked goal from Andrew Copp. The Jets, against all odds, were up 1-0.
The Second Period
“So you see, that’s where the trouble began...” accurately sums up the middle 20 minutes of the game. With a 1-0 lead, the Jets started to fall apart and began taking careless penalties. Earlier into the period, Johnny Gaudreau made the Jets pay and evened it up. Winnipeg earned a power play a few minutes later but the inept special teams play led to a shorthanded goal for Tobias Rieder. There was an interference from Derek Ryan on the pursuing Josh Morrissey, but it wasn’t enough for the refs to call the penalty.
The Jets continued to implode, especially on special teams, and conceded a second power play goal to Mikael Backlund just before the end of the second period. For as bad as the Jets were, all of the damage was done on special teams situations. Neither team was really creating anything of note at even-strength.
The Third Period
Winnipeg started to try and climb back into a dispiriting game. Ehlers and a few other Jets nailed the post several times, but luck did not favor the Jets in this one. Calgary was content to sit back and counter, letting the 3-1 lead carry them through. Winnipeg may had have some power plays in this period, but they were so bad that I’ve tried to burn them from memory. The Jets desperately need someone else to coach the power play unit because the insistence on feeding everything through Pionk at the point breaks the entire structure.
The Flames weathered Winnipeg’s storm and sealed the deal with an empty-net goal. The 4-1 loss puts the Jets in a major hole early in this series, and now there’s a decent chance a late-game injury to Patrik Laine will sideline him as well. Winnipeg is fast approaching lotto-pick territory, as there’s little depth to replace either one of Laine or Scheifele.
The Jets are in tough.
This series was going to be difficult for Winnipeg to begin with, but it seems nigh impossible now. Scheifele’s injury is reportedly a cut of some kind, but we won’t know the severity for the time being. Laine is still being looked at, so his status is also unclear. The Jets are going to have to scrap every ounce of resolve before Monday, because this series is very much in jeopardy as-is.
Calgary wasn’t particularly good either.
For all of Winnipeg’s mistakes, it’s not like the Flames were some juggernaut team. They mostly focused on trying to assassinate Winnipeg’s roster, but didn’t create much at even-strength. They didn’t need to do much, all told. If the Jets come out with a competent performance on Monday and even the series, there’s still a chance for a comeback.
Is it worth winning at this point?
I’m struggling with this question, because I very much want Winnipeg to smash the Flames. By the same token, neither the Jets nor the Flames are well-equipped to handle future rounds. If both Laine and Scheifele are done for the year, then it seems best for the Jets to exit now. Their lottery odds will sit at 12.5%, which is more than enough for me. Bow out as gracefully as possible and hope the lotto balls grant you a franchise attacker for the future.