All-Canadian Match-up! Jets vs. Flames Preview
This Play-in series breakdown features an All-Canadian matchup between the Calgary Flames and the Winnipeg Jets.
Calgary Flames (8) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9)
Can The Jets Put Out The Flames?
The Flames fell off in the 2019-20 season, considering their previous success in the 2018-19 season. Last year they finished 1st in the Western Conference, before falling short in the 1st round of the playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche. For the 2019-20 season, there have been major question marks surrounding their starting goalie(s).
Goalie Stats: Season Totals:
David Rittich: 48 Games Played, .907 Save Percentage, 2.97 Goals Against Average.
Cam Talbot: 26 Games Played, .919 Save Percentage, 2.63 Goals Against Average.
There are still question marks as to who will start this series. Despite Rittich playing the bulk of the season, Talbot got the start in the exhibition game last night against the Edmonton Oilers (July 28). However, Rittich came into the game at the midway point. Neither goalie seemed to make a statement as they both allowed 2 goals in the 4-1 loss. Regardless of who gets the start in this series, they will have a tough task of competing with Connor Hellebuyck, who put up Vezina-like numbers this season. Also, to make matters worse, the Flames are missing a key part of their defensive unit with Travis Hamonic electing to sit out of the Play-ins.
On the other side, despite the off-ice distractions this season, the Jets have still managed to book themselves a spot in the Play-ins. However, they have lost key pieces of their defensive core over the past couple of seasons with big names such as Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers departing. As a result, the Jets were ranked 22nd on the penalty kill with a 77.6% success rate and Hellebuyck had the most shots on net of any goalie in the 2019-20 season. So, their defensive play and penalty kill will need to be much better this series to support Hellebuyck in the net. Look for the Jets to lean on their high powered offense and Hellebuyck's play in net to get past the Flames.
The Difference Makers
Looking at a player from each team that will decide this series.
⭐ Johnny Gaudreau
It is no secret that Johnny Hockey had an off-season. His point totals dropped from 99 points in the 2018-19 season, to 58 points in the 2019-20 season. And yes, I know it was a shortened season, but his 1.20 points per game average in 2018-19 is much higher compared to his 0.82 average in 2019-20. The Flames are hoping that the extended layoff for Gaudreau is just what he needed to reset and forget about his 2019-20 season performance. He will need to play to his full capabilities if the Flames are to have any chance against the Jets.
⭐ Connor Hellebuyck
Hellebuyck has carried the Jets this year. The 27-year-old netminder posted a .922 save percentage, 2.57 goals-against average, and a league-high 6 shutouts. As a result, these numbers have him considered as a Vezina Trophy candidate for the 2019-20 season. But, playoff hockey is much more intense and competitive, therefore the Jets will have to tighten up defensively so Hellebuyck isn't peppered with a lot of shots each game, which will inevitably tire him out. He was the Jets MVP this season, and if they plan on making a run for the cup this year, Hellebuyck will have to continue his dominance between the pipes.
Prediction and Betting Picks
The oddsmakers on Bodog favour the Flames this series with a -120 line, while the Jets are the slight underdogs at +100. I believe the Jets have the more potent offense, and I firmly believe that the Jets have the advantage between the pipes as well. The play of the top lines for the Flames (Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm) and Jets (Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler) will play a major role in determining the winner of this series. The Jets top line has been consistent and much more productive than the Flames top line, and I expect this trend to continue. Also, the Jets have much better secondary scoring with Laine and Ehlers on their second line. I expect this series to be competitive, but I am taking the Jets to pull off the mini upset in 5, maybe 4 games depending on the play of the Flames top line.
Prediction: Jets over the Flames in 5... look to bet the 'Series Prop' at +100