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FLAMES-JETS PREVIEW: PART 2

Defence, goaltending, key storylines, players to watch - and all the stats

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / Calgaryflames.com

We can't wait to get back on the ice - and we know our fans are certainly amped for the same thing. 

So, let's talk some hockey.

The Flames are slated to meet the Jets in a best-of-five series to determine who will advance to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Yesterday we presented Part 1 of our series preview.

Below is Part 2.

 

THE GOALIE MATCHUP:

Good goaltending is always key come playoff time. 

But there may be no greater example of that than right here, with these teams. 

The Flames have a couple of options available. David Rittich has had the bulk of the workload, with a 24-17-6 record, a .907 save percentage and a 2.97 goals-against average in 48 appearances. Cam Talbot has played about half as much, but was getting a turn in the No.-1 spot more regularly, and lights-out entering the pause, finishing the regular-season with a 12-10-1 record, along with a .919 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average. 

Talbot got the start in three of the last four games for the Flames, delivering the goods with all-star performances in each. Allowing only four goals on 94 shots in that stretch, he brought a .957 save percentage and a miniscule, 1.31 goals-against average into his last 10 days of action. 

All told, his .927 save percentage is seventh-best in the NHL since Dec. 1.

 

 

Meanwhile, Rittich has given the Flames an equally stellar showing in the blue paint. While the 27-year-old finished the regular season winless in his last eight starts at the Scotiabank Saddledome, his overall game has been exemplary.

From mid-December on, Rittich appeared in 14 road tilts, compiling a 9-4-1 record to tie Lightning puck-stopper Andrei Vasilevskiy with the most wins away from the friendly confines, and deliver a sparkling, .918 save percentage in the process.

In that same timeframe, including his handful of home starts, Rittich has a high-danger save percentage of .862 - stopping 50 of the 58 shots that have come from the 'home plate' area in front of net. That ranks fourth among goalies with at least 300 minutes played, trailing only Elvis Merzlikins, Jonathan Quick and Jacob Markstrom.

At the other end of the rink, there's absolutely no question about who the Jets will be rolling out in Game 1. 

Connor Hellebuyck has had a season to remember and should be considered the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy. 

The Jets, who are in the bottom third of the league when it comes to even-strength possession, have given up the most high-danger scoring chances in the league, by far. Their 40.4 HDCF% is dead last, and nearly four full percentage points below that of the next-worst team, the cellar-dwelling Detroit Red Wings. 

Despite that, Hellebuyck has single-handedly put the Jets in contention, thanks to his 31-21-5 record, .922 save percentage (second only to Tuukka Rask among goalies with at least 40 appearances) and 2.57 goals-against average. 

The 27-year-old has faced 412 high-danger shots for an average of 7.1 per game. Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, John Gibson and Corey Crawford round out the Top 5, with 354, 347, 347 and 330 faced, respectively. 

 

 

KEY STORYLINE - TEAM D AND DISCIPLINE:

"The offence, we want it to come, but we're going to have to make sure that we're really good at coming back into our own end, really good in our own zone, limiting the scoring chances against a team that has a lot of skill. … I feel like our ability to play defensively in all three zones is going to be a key factor for us not only having success in the (qualifying) round, but also in the subsequent rounds, too. You can't win the Stanley Cup if you're not good away from the puck, and you can't win the Stanley Cup if your team does not play well defensively. That, for us, is going to be critical." - Flames head coach Geoff Ward

And, as always - stay out of the box. 

You can't afford not to against a potent Winnipeg powerplay. 

 

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Flames - Rasmus Andersson

He's built for this. 

If ever a player wanted to make an impact, there's no better forum than a playoff-style battle against a bitter, geographical rival.

Expect it to be physical. Nasty. The gruff, ground-and-pound game is right up his alley. 

But nowadays, Andersson is more than a physical brute. He's rapidly evolved into a minute-munching monster on the backend, playing upwards of 25 minutes per game in a top-pairing role, while elevating his offensive production in the process. 

Digging deeper, the 23-year-old is one of Calgary's top performers in almost every advanced category: 

Corsi For: 51.5% (5th)

Scoring Chances For: 53.5% (3rd)

High-Danger Chances For: 53.2% (4th)

* Team ranks in parenthesis 

 

 

Jets - Andrew Copp

Copp has become a real leader for the Jets and brings a versatile, two-way game at centre and the wing. At the time of the pause, Copp was playing on the left side with Adam Lowry at centre and Jack Roslovic on the opposite flank. 

In 63 games this year, Copp - who plays big minutes on both special teams - had 10 goals and 26 points. 

 

 

REGULAR-SEASON STATS:

Goals for/against:

Flames - 204 (20th) / 214 (13th)

Jets - 213 (16th) / 201 (20th)

Leading scorers:

Flames:

Points - Matthew Tkachuk (61)

Goals - Elias Lindholm (29)

Jets:

Points - Kyle Connor (73)

Goals - Connor (38)

 

Powerplay: 

Flames - 21.2 (12th)

Jets - 20.5 (15th)

Penalty kill: 

Flames - 82.1 (8th)

Jets - 77.6 (22nd)

Save percentage:

Flames - .906 (23rd)

Jets - .913 (12th)

 

ADVANCED STATS:

Corsi (shot attempts for/against):

Flames - 50.25% (15th)

Jets - 48.55 (21st)

Scoring chances:

Flames - 49.98% (15th)

Jets - 46.45 (29th)

High-danger chances:

Flames - 50.87 (11th)

Jets - 40.38 (31st)

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