The Flames hung four goals on the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night and did something they hadn’t done all series: score first. They also did something they have’t done since 2015: advance in the post season. It was a complete performance by every Flames player as lines 1-4 were all key contributors to the win. Calgary’s defence was strong again and balanced scoring (Monahan, Dube, Bennett and Andresson) showed that the Flames have depth and can roll those lines at any time. Here’s the three main reasons the Flames handed the Jets their walking papers and took the series 3-1.
1) Cam Talbot
It may sound like a broken record, but Talbot was an absolute brick wall tonight for the Flames. He made every save (clearly) that he needed to, but he also made a few spectacular saves that kept the Jets at bay and frustrated. After a light work load in the Flames first win of the series, Talbot had to be sharp in the next three games and was. Over the final three games of the series he faced 92 shots and surrendered just 5 goals. That’s a Save % of .945 over that stretch. He collected his third career playoff shut out Thursday night and I don’t think any of us saw him getting the starting nod in the series, never mind being this dominant. He out dueled Connor Hellebuyck in the series and clearly is the man between the pipes for the rest of the post season if he continues to play this well.
2) The 3rd Line
It’s not often you can highlight your bottom six in post season play, but the Flames third line came to play in Game 4. The 3M Line had been carrying the Flames, along with the emergence of Sean Monahan, but you can really hang this win on Sam Bennett (yes, I typed that), Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube. Dube opened the scoring with his first playoff goal and led the team with 7 SOG. Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist and Milan Lucic had an assist and started the night off with a fight right off the opening face. Sam Bennett was really the story though. Besides his two point effort he led all players (Winnipeg and Calgary) with eight hits. He was a force at both ends of the ice, sacrificing his body, much like Micheal Ferland’s famous playoff run. If the Flames can get this kind of effort night in and night out from this unit it’s going to be very difficult to play Calgary.
3) All The D
The Flames defence came to play tonight and they allowed the Winnipeg Jets absolutely nothing. The Flames as a team blocked 21 shots and 14 came from the blue liners. Mark Giordano’s body will surely be sore after blocking a game high five shots, but he wasn’t alone. T.J. Brodie who had an excellent series (and game) blocked three shots on his own and his stick was in the passing lanes all night long, breaking up multiple passes. The Calgary defence also combined for three points with Rasmus Andersson getting an empty net goal and Noah Hanifin and Erik Gustafsson collecting a helper each as well. With lots of “ifs” circulating as to who would fill in for Travis Hamonic in the post season the Flames seem to have three defensive pairings that are working. The Andersson/Hanifin pairing looked especially good as the Flames closed out the series.