This one was one for the books. Right off the opening draw, Milan Lucic and Nathan Beaulieu dropped the gloves in a spirited fight, which set the tone for the game. While both players were in the box, Erik Gustafsson‘s point shot was stopped by Connor Hellebuyck, but the rebound was picked up by Dillon Dube. He took a couple of whacks at it and put it past the sprawling goalie to put the Flames up by one.
It would stay that way until the dying seconds of the first when a nice play from Noah Hanifin led to a rush up ice. He fed Sam Bennett, who put it past Hellebuyck with less than one second left in the period to double the Flames’ lead.
In the second period, both teams traded chances, but the Flames seemed to get the better ones. However, both goalies were able to shut the door. At the end of two periods, the shots were 27-19 for the boys in red.
In the third, the Jets seem to come alive. They looked like they had a sinking feeling that this may be the end of hockey season for them, and they came out fired up looking for an equalizer. However, Cam Talbot was absolutely up for the task, stopping everything that came his way, including a broken play that resulted in a two-on-none chance.
5v5 Player Stats
- Playoff Bennett led the way for the Flames in this one with a monster 70.4% CF to go along with a goal and an assist
- Johnny Gaudreau was underwater in this one, posting a less than stellar 25.0% CF. He also was not on the ice for any of the Flames high danger chances at 5v5.
- Another incredible game for Dube, posting a 65.4% CF with seven individual shot attempts, and five individual high danger chances.
- Adam Lowry really stepped up for the Jets in this one, posting a 70.6% CF
- Jansen Harkins was not as strong, with a less than ideal 40.7% CF
- Dmitry Kulikov was individually quite good, with a team leading seven individual shot attempts and three individual scoring chances
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
This series had a lot of back and forth. There were moments in which the Flames looked to be much better, and moments in which Flames fans undoubtedly felt as though their team may not win this series. This game was the one where the quality of the Flames was on full display, and the cracks in the Jets’ system were most clearly exposed.
The Flames, on paper, have on of the strongest defenses in the NHL. Facing off against a Winnipeg team that had lost many of their better defencemen over the last two seasons, this was expected to be a major key to the series, and it was especially in this game. The Flames defencemen were able to keep the Jets’ stars mostly to the outside. They were sound in their own zone, limiting turnovers and creating clear breakout passes. The biggest thing that they did well is they battled hard in front of Talbot, and allowed him to see everything that was coming his way. The Flames back end was quietly brilliant in this one.
Speaking of Talbot, he was a difference maker for the Flames in this game, and in this series. He was dialed in, positionally strong, and gave up few dangerous rebounds. While the defence in front of him was strong, when the systems broke down or the Jets really pressed, he was right there to shut the door. He ended the game a perfect 31/31, with four high danger saves, and 11 medium danger saves. An overall excellent night.
While the first and second lines were the story of the last game, the story of this game was the third line. Bennett, Dube, and Lucic went to town against the Jets. Bennett was in peak performance mode, throwing big hits up and down the ice. He was strong on his feet, and making smart plays like we have not seen this season. He looked very much like the player he was in the OHL.
Lucic was a leader on this line. He was not as flashy as Dube or Bennett, but he was strong on and off the puck, making the smart play to keep the puck in the zone or to take away the danger. He even had a number of quality scoring chances in this one, and ended with an assist. I don’t think anyone had Lucic as a point-per-game playoff performer, but here we are.
The star on this line was Dube. The Cochrane native has been quietly effective all season, doing the little things right all season, although that has not translated into as many goals as he may have liked. In this game, something changed. He was getting to the front of the net, and picking up rebounds. On top of that, he was strong along the boards and in the corners, allowing the Flames to keep possession in the offensive zone. He created a number of chances, and was dynamic all night.
The big question that the Flames going into this series was whether they could beat Hellebuyck, not once but regularly. There has been a lot of talk about whether he was good enough or dialed in enough this series, but looking at the numbers, the Flames were just able to get a number of high danger chances on net that it overwhelmed him. In this final game of the series, the Flames managed 13 high danger chances and were able to beat Hellebuyck once. That also does not include the two bars that they hit from the slot.
Put simply, the Flames were the better team at all ends of the ice. Talbot was lights out in net, and was helped by having a strong defence in front of him. With the exception of the fourth line, the Flames got scoring across their lineup, and were able to shut down much of Winnipeg’s offense. They were a strong, well-built team that could really do some damage in the next round. While the next opponent will undoubtedly be more challenging, the Flames are a team that can put up a real fight against anyone in the West.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful
Good: The defense pairing of Hanifin and Andersson was incredible in this game. Strong both offensively and defensively.
Bad: The first line struggled to turn defense into offense in this contest. They will need to be stronger in the next round
Beautiful : Talbot shutting the door on a two-on-none right in front of the net, and sealing the series with a shutout win
To be determined!
Photo by: Getty Images