Having won four straight games and earning points in each of their last seven outings (5-0-2), the Calgary Flames received another boost before playing host to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday: rest.
When the Flames posted a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, it was their first contest back from a seven-game road trip. A couple of days off before practicing on Friday were much deserved for the club that sits atop the Western Conference.
“It was very nice for us after our busy schedule to have a couple days to regroup and get the mind right again,” forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “It was time for a reset after all the travel. As much as you want to be playing, playing, playing, everybody needed that. And now we have two (more) games at home to take care of business. It lets us hone in on focusing on a few games instead of a big seven-game road trip.”
The Flames are in the top seven in the league in goals per game, power play and penalty kill success, but the biggest key to their good fortune has been the team defense. They are tops in the league in goals-against, a stingy 1.90 average.
“We’ve created a foundation of something we know we can resort back to,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “There’s momentum changes in a season and within games. There can be a two-minute segment in a game and momentum has completely swayed to the other side. With the work we’ve put in so far, we’ve figured out how to manage that and how to weather it so there aren’t massive breakdowns.”
The Jets arrive in Calgary on a season-worst five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and coming off a 7-1 road drubbing at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Friday afternoon.
Winnipeg has mustered just five goals during its swoon, but even more alarming is the porous defensive play.
“I really don’t have a complaint about our offensive game. We’re not scoring goals but we’ll be fine. It’s our defensive game,” coach Paul Maurice said. “We gave up more odd-man chances (against Minnesota) than we’ve given up in a long, long time. We’ve been a good five-on-five defensive team but gave up six tonight even strength. That just hasn’t happened to us.”
Just as alarming to the Jets is how fragile they appear to be. They were the better team in the opening period of Friday’s game, but couldn’t find the net and trailed 2-0 at the first intermission. Then, a quick pair of goals against early in the second period sent them spiraling to their most lopsided defeat of the season.
Before long, the game became a laugher for the Wild, and a humbling experience for the Jets.
“That’s the mental part, where we got frustrated a little bit, thinking, ‘Oh it’s not gonna be our night’ instead of thinking, ‘Oh let’s turn it around,'” forward Paul Stastny said. “You’re going to go through skids. Whether you’re losing close games or blowout games, sometimes it’s better to lose a blowout game to kind of wake everyone up and knock some sense into everyone.”
–Field Level Media