Clichés are predominantly useless, but every so often they are befitting of the circumstances. “It’s gut check time” is an obvious and tired banality – but it certainly sums up nicely the Winnipeg Jets upcoming contest against the Calgary Flames:
The Flames come into this game on quasi-fire (apologies for the low-hanging pun), having won 4 of their last 5 games. They currently sit 4th in Moneypuck’s Power Rankings (Jets are 12th) and 18th in the Athletics’ Power Rankings (Jets are 17th).
The stakes were dampened slightly by Calgary’s choke-induced loss to Chicago on Tuesday- a defeat that leaves the Jets 2 points up with a game in hand. The betting community has the Jets as slight favorites, but let’s take a closer look:
Goaltending: Advantage Winnipeg Jets
The Flames have suffered through historically bad goaltending this season as Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar represent the worst net-minding tandem in the NHL. With their “Goals Saved Above Expected” numbers at -6 and -8.4 respectively, the pair represents a negative delta of nearly 40 Expected Goals when compared to Connor Hellebuyck’s season alone.
Markstrom was recently pulled after a single period of play after allowing 2 goals on 9 shots. He also squandered 4 goals on 23 shots against the Blackhawks. That level of goaltending is welcomed by Jets fans.
Special Teams: Even
The Flames and Jets have both been inept with a man advantage this season (20.59% vs. 19.29%), while their respective penalty kills have been refreshingly productive (82.27% vs. 81.89%).
More platitudes, but the Jets’ powerplay needs to capitalize on this one. Calgary is top 10 in penalties taken this year, so PP efficiency could prove the difference maker.
Defense: Advantage Calgary
Based on Expected Goals % with a minimum of 200 minutes played, the Tanev-Hanifin and Weegar-Andersson combos are both top 12 in the NHL. The best combinations for the Jets have been any pairing with either DeMelo and Samberg (yes, not Morrissey) but neither gets the minutes entrusted to the Flames’ statistical leaders.
Both Winnipeg (31.32% – 2nd) and Calgary (29.1% – 9th) frequently miss the net on unblocked shot attempts, so it will be important for Winnipeg’s D-men to clear lanes in their defensive zone.
Offence: Advantage Winnipeg Jets
I’m throwing statistical analysis aside. The Jets have the better forward group on paper and just need to prove it. With 6 goals scored in back-to-back games, the Jets have some momentum and need to take advantage of a Flames team that undoubtedly had an uncomfortable plane ride into Winnipeg.
This feels like a great time for a Mark Scheifele multi/goal game, as a mini-revenge for an unceremonious exit to their playoff matchup a few years ago.
Want your voice heard? Join the Jets White Out team!
Wednesday is not a loser-goes-home proposition- but it’s not far from it. To borrow yet another cliché – “it’s do or die time”. The Winnipeg Jets’ 2022-23 season will be judged by the output and intensity of this game.