14Cam Talbot
Photo Credit: James Carey Lauder/USA Today Sports

Flames vs. Jets preview: goaltending

The qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs begin on Saturday in scenic Edmonton, Alberta. The Calgary Flames will face the Winnipeg Jets in a best-of-five series. In such a short series, goaltending will be a huge factor in who advances.

Which team has the advantage in net?

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The Flames

The Flames brought four goaltenders to the bubble. Cam Talbot (33), David Rittich (27), Jon Gillies (26) and Artyom Zagidulin (24). Either Talbot or Rittich is expected to get the bulk of the workload.

Talbot went 12-10-1 for the Flames this season with two shutouts, a 2.63 goals against average, .919 save percentage and .925 even strength save percentage though 26 games. In his NHL career, he’s 150-122-25 in the regular season with a 2.61 goals against average and .915 save percentage.

Rittich went 24-17-6 for the Flames with two shutouts, a 2.97 goals against average, .907 save percentage and .916 even strength save percentage through 48 games. In his NHL career he’s 54-32-14 in the regular season with a 2.82 goals against average and .908 save percentage.

Gillies went 14-10-4 with AHL Stockton this season with a shutout, a 2.69 goals against average and .907 save percentage through 30 games. He’s 69-61-19 with a 2.92 goals against average and .906 save percentage in his AHL career. He’s 4-5-1 with a 2.71 goals against average and .903 save percentage in a handful of NHL appearances.

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Zagidulin went 16-7-4 with Stockton with two shutouts, a 3.07 goals against average and .898 save percentage in 30 games. It was his first AHL action.

The Jets

The Jets bought four goaltenders to the bubble: Connor Hellebuyck (27), Laurent Brossoit (27), Eric Comrie (25) and Mikhail Berdin (22). Hellebuyck, a Vezina finalist, will get virtually all the work.

Hellebuyck went 31-21-5 for the Jets this season with six shutouts, a 2.57 goals against average, .922 save percentage and .929 even strength save percentage though 58 games. In his NHL career, he’s 148-85-22 in the regular season with a 2.64 goals against average and .917 save percentage.

Brossoit went 6-7-1 for the Jets with a 3.28 goals against average, .895 save percentage and .909 even strength save percentage through 19 games. In his NHL career he’s 26-26-5 in the regular season with a 2.91 goals against average and .906 save percentage.

Comrie bounced around a bit this season. He was claimed by Arizona off waivers from the Jets but never played for the Coyotes – he spent time with AHL Tucson on a conditioning loan. He was traded to Detroit mid-season, played three games, then was claimed off waivers by the Jets and eventually ended up with AHL Manitoba. He was 10-9-0 with a shutout, a 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 20 games between Tucson and Manitoba. He’s 87-92-20 with a 2.85 goals against average and .911 save percentage in his AHL career. He’s 2-5-0 with a 4.23 goals against average and .868 save percentage in a few NHL appearances.

Berdin spent the season with Manitoba. He went 20-21-1 with two shutouts, a 2.89 goals against average and .910 save percentage through 42 games. Lifetime he’s 32-29-4 with a 2.70 goals against average and .910 save percentage in the AHL.

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The edge

Winnipeg can trot out Hellebucyk and have a clear edge against either Talbot or Rittich. But in the unlikely event Hellebuyck sucks or disappears from the series due to injury or whatever, it becomes a whole new ball-game. Brossoit is a tremendously average backup goalie and the battle of AHL tenders is probably a wash.

That said, with both teams at full health and strength, Winnipeg has a clear and definitive edge between the pipes.