The Winnipeg Jets are flying high while the Calgary Flames are watching their playoff hopes flicker as the rivals prepare for a trio of meetings starting on Friday.
Calgary, which will host the Jets on consecutive nights and then again on Monday, returned home from a disastrous road trip that ended with three straight losses — the final two against the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators.
The Flames likely need to win 16 of their remaining 22 games, which is more than they’ve managed in their first 34 outings in a campaign that cost head coach Geoff Ward his job and hasn’t turned around under Darryl Sutter.
“We know we have to go on a run,” said Calgary captain Mark Giordano, whose team has lost four of five games — all in regulation time. “We have the guys in there to do it. I don’t think we’re a team that’s getting overwhelmed by anyone. We have long stretches where we’re good, but we’ve got to put it together and start feeling good about ourselves when we have those opportunities in the O-zone. We’ve got to get those chances and score on our chances, too.”
The Flames have managed just two goals in their last three outings and lost a pair of games against an Ottawa team that’s down to its fourth-string goalie. Wednesday’s 3-1 loss came with extra disappointment as the Flames failed to win a game in which they led after two periods for the first time this season.
Mathematically, they are still alive in the playoff hunt, but their margin for error has disappeared, especially after having lost five of seven games against the Senators.
“We can’t just move on. We’ve got to feel this and motivate us for the next one,” forward Dillon Dube said after his team’s most recent loss. “We can’t get ourselves stressed out here and worry about all those games. It’s one game, but definitely let this sink in.”
The Jets arrive on the heels of a two-game road sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in which they outscored their hosts by a 9-1 count. Winnipeg has won three of five meetings with Calgary this season.
“I think our confidence is real, and we have confidence in our game and in our process,” said forward Andrew Copp, who scored four goals in his team’s 5-1 win on Wednesday. “When we’re doing well, I feel like we think this is how it should be, which is the sign of a winning team in my book is you expect these results, you expect to win.”
Having players net career-best games helps, too.
“I’m going to have a hard time remembering my last four-goal game. I don’t know if that’s ever happened before, so it’s a pretty cool experience,” Copp said. “Obviously, the power play was working and then getting those two at the end were the cherries on top.”
The Jets are also tightening up their defensive game, in big part because No. 1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck has been rounding into form. Before getting to Vancouver, Hellebuyck had surrendered at least three goals in his previous eight starts. He stopped 60 of 61 shots against the Canucks, but he saw his second consecutive shutout opportunity snapped with 85 seconds remaining in the game.
“It stings a little bit,” Hellebuyck said of losing out on pitching back-to-back goose eggs. “I love shutouts, but at the end of the day we win, and that’s all I really care about.”
–Field Level Media