The Calgary Flames took a 1-0 lead in their Best-of-5 series with the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night with a 4-1 victory. Leading the way with goals were Johnny Gaudreau, Tobias Rieder, Mikael Backlund, and Andrew Mangiapane while Cam Talbot made 17 saves. Here are three reasons why the Flames emerged victorious in Game 1.
1. Superb Special Teams Play
Simply put, this was one of the best special teams performances we may have ever seen by the Flames. On the powerplay the Flames looked dangerous, scoring two goals on four chances. Calgary had 15 shot attempts over 6:05 of PP time including three high danger chances and 10 total shots on goal. Both units tallied goals which was also very encouraging after the top unit carried most of the scoring during the regular season.
However the penalty kill was even more impressive from an eye test and statistical perspective. The Flames killed a whopping seven Jets powerplays over a total of 12:05. With regular penalty kill leader Travis Hamonic not participating, Calgary’s adjustment to a potent Winnipeg powerplay was a big question mark.
Not only did the Flames shut down the Jets, they straight up dominated. Calgary was only outshot 4-3 while shorthanded and only gave up 10 shot attempts and ZERO high danger chances over those 12 minutes. Add in a beautiful shorthanded goal by Tobias Rieder to make it even better.
2. Stellar Shutdown Play in the 3rd
While it’s not particularly shocking, the Flames did fall back into a defensive shell in the third period while defending a two goal lead. This was something they had done all season with questionable success, however it seemed to work very well against a Jets team that generates a lot of offence off rushes.
The Flames only gave up five third period shots, although Winnipeg did have a few close calls with shots that hit the post. For the most part though the Flames did a great job all night long at limiting Jet chances after a slow start.
3. Setting the Physical Tone
The biggest complaint of the fanbase after last season was that the Flames were simply too easy to push around in the playoffs. For at least one game some of those concerns were alleviated as the Flames set the tone all night long with heavy hits and not backing down whatsoever. While the stats may show that the Jets out-hit the Flames, for the most part it felt that the Flames were physically in control of the game, and making the Jets physically pay for each play they tried to make.
Game 2 will go at 12:30 on Monday.