There are games in every season that are meaningless in almost every way, and we all experienced one of those on Thursday evening in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets went into the game more or less knowing that they’ll be playing the Minnesota Wild when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Wednesday, and they played like a team that had no interest in engaging physically (or even emotionally) with the Calgary Flames. That suited the Flames fine, as they’ve played like a team incapable of engaging emotionally in a game since around mid-February and are now playing out the string.
The Jets are better team than the Flames. They gave them very little en route to a 2-1 victory over Calgary in the Flames’ second-to-last game of the 2017-18 regular season.
The opening frame was largely even, with the Flames getting a lot of shots and chances but not a lot of great looks. The Jets took the lead late in the first period, as Blake Wheeler redirected a Dustin Byfuglien shot past Jon Gillies to make it 1-0. Shots were 15-7 Flames and chances were 6-4 Flames.
The Jets made it 2-0 midway through second period: Ben Chiarot waited patiently at the point for Paul Stastny to creep into position after being knocked down cycling the puck in the corner, then laid down a low shot for the redirect by Stastny and a 2-0 lead. But the Flames answered back, as Spencer Foo got his first NHL goal, deflecting a Michael Stone point shot through traffic with his skate to make it 2-1. (Johnny Gaudreau grabbed the puck for him.)
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 6, 2018
Shots were 9-8 Flames and chances were 6-5 Flames.
Neither team scored in the final frame. The Jets seemed content to clog things up and ride it out. They’re a good team, so they were able to do so. Shots were 9-7 Jets, chances were 3-2 Flames.
Why The Flames Lost
The Jets are a probable Stanley Cup contender with a deep lineup and a mature, structured game-plan. The Flames are missing several regulars, including several of their best offensive players. It’s a minor miracle that this game was as close as it ended up being.
The Flames’ best chances were a pair of first period breakaways for Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau. They both went right into Connor Hellebuyck’s pads. It was that type of game, and it’s been that type of season.
Foo got his first goal, so he gets the nod, but his line with Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund were quite good overall.
The Turning Point
The Flames never led in this game at all, but the second goal (the eventual game-winner) swung this thing towards the home side.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Michael Frolik left the game after crashing into the boards awkwardly midway through the third period and didn’t return.
The Flames (36-35-10) practice tomorrow and then host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night for their final game of the 2017-18 season.