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The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames were both strong Western Conference contenders last season. The Flames finished the regular season with the most points in the West while the Jets finished fourth. As the season flipped to 2019-20, though, neither of those teams were able to maintain. If the playoffs were to start today, this would be a matchup of the No. 6 (Jets) and the No. 7 (Flames) teams in the Western Conference, both inside the cut by just two points.
A long layoff may be just what the doctor ordered for these teams or they still might be beyond repair. At any rate, one will advance this best-of-five series, so let’s take a look and see who is the best bet to do so.
Winnipeg Jets vs Calgary Flames
Odds: Jets -106, Flames -116 at FanDuel Sportsbook
Taking a look at the Jets numbers, they should be better than what they are. They’re scoring 3.00 goals per game, which is OK at No. 17, and they’re allowing just 2.83 goals per game, which is 10th– best. The issue has been consistency with this team. They were vast underachievers early on, starting 25-23-4, and appeared to have turned a corner. They were 12-5-2 going into the break. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck had seemingly stepped up as he had a .917 save percentage before the All-Star break and was at .934 after it. If he – and the rest of the team – can regain that momentum, they should be able to beat a Flames team that showed nothing in the playoffs last season and has shown little in 2020.
The Flames were the second-highest scoring team in the 2018-19 season as they averaged a healthy 3.52 goals per game. They’ve completely fallen off the map as many of their young offensive stars just aren’t delivering like they did a year ago. The trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm combined to average 3.22 points per game last season. This year, they’re at 2.29. That’s a big issue as the rest of the team hasn’t picked up the slack. The Flames are scoring just 2.91 goals per game, which is 20th in the NHL.
The reason that’s key is that the Flames are weak between the pipes. They’re actually still at the same save percentage (roughly) this year as they’re at .906 as a team compared to .903 last year, but the difference is the number of shots they are allowing. They led the league last season with 28.1 shots-against per game but are now at 32.4 this season, which is the eighth-most.
Goaltender David Rittich has been a mess for the Flames, which means it’s really just a matter if Cam Talbot can save them. He’s been really hot and cold, though, posting a .929 save percentage in January, a .898 save percentage in February and a .957 save percentage in March. A lot is going to depend on him and whether the offense can get back on track.
A big key to this series will be the health of the Flames blue line. They were banged up before the break and many thought they should have made a move at the trade deadline. They didn’t but now they’ve had ample time to heal.
Even so, I’m just not that impressed with this Flames team, which is average overall. The Jets have a better quality goaltender and as we saw in the playoffs last year (with the Flames), that will have an impact here. I like the Jets as a dog in this spot.