Thanks to another standout performance from the powerplay, coupled with strong goaltending, the Calgary Flames took a 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets with a 6-2 victory on Tuesday. Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic, and Johnny Gaudreau all scored for the Flames in the victory. Calgary has now pushed Winnipeg to the brink of elimination.
1. 3M 2.0 Line has Another Terrific Performance
They’re simply outstanding. There’s no other way to describe the line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Andrew Mangiapane. At even strength they dominated possession, with CF% between 60.98 and 65.71%. They did this despite not a single offensive zone start, meaning they were driving play up ice all game long. The team registered 15 shots on goal in roughly 14 minutes on the ice, by far the best numbers of any forward line. They also combined for four high danger scoring chances.
Oh yeah, they also scored two goals with Backlund and Tkachuk getting on the board with Mangiapane having two assists in the game. There’s no way around it, this is the Flames top line right now. That’s no knock on the Monahan line, but when you have three guys playing this well, they’re unstoppable. If the Monahan line can improve at even strength, the Flames could be a serious contender.
2. Powerplay Torches Jets Again
I’m still trying to figure out why the Flames have looked so competent on the PP in Games 1 & 3, but were completely lost in Game 2. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to understand the randomness of hockey, but instead look at the positives of each game individually.
After a lackluster 0/6 showing in Game 2, Calgary immediately kicked things off with a goal from Elias Lindholm nine seconds into their first PP. It featured a tremendous feed right onto Lindholm’s stick in front who deflected it home. A bit of puck luck got Sean Monahan a PP goal in the 2nd, and Loooooch put home a silky smooth rebound goal in the 3rd. Overall Calgary had 4 high danger chanes in 4:24 of PP time and went 3⁄4 on the night.
If you compare the heat maps of the PP in Game 3 (above) and Game 2 (below) you can see that the Flames were much better in getting to the high danger area right in front of Connor Hellebuyck yesterday, rather than in Game 2 where their shot attempts were coming from a lot of different spots, but none particularly dangerous. The difference in results? Those three little G’s right in the middle of that blue spot.
3. Talbot Continues Stellar Play
We weren’t shocked coming into the series when Cam Talbot got the start in Game 1. Through three games now he holds a .925 SV% and has been very stellar in all three games. He has yet to allow a particularly weak goal, and has stood tall after the Flames have allowed the opening goal in all three games of the series.
Last night was no different for him. The Jets first goal was the result of a breakaway off some egregious neutral zone coverage by the Flames, and the second goal was the result of a Jet walking right in front of him unchecked.
Heading into the series, it was thought the Jets would have a significant goaltending advantage, and while Connor Hellebuyck has been playing well, Talbot has narrowed the expected gap significantly which has allowed the Flames to take the series lead. The question is can he maintain his performance with his fourth start in six nights tomorrow?