The Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames played yesterday and, after a quick turnaround, they do it again later today. There’s no doubt this quick turnaround probably helps the Flames – at least mentally. Given their 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Jets yesterday, they’re likely ready to get back into action.
In Monday’s game, the Jets took a 2-0 lead, but the Flames tied the game late in the second period. However, Winnipeg got a power-play goal in the final period on a Nikolaj Ehlers tip-in and that was the game.
Flames’ veteran winger Milan Lucic responded, “Just like in the season when there’s back-to-backs, you don’t have time to dwell on wins and losses, just get back to it. That’s where our mindset has to be.”
In this edition of Winnipeg Jets News & Rumors, I’ll review some of the Game 2 action as well as look forward to Game 3.
Item One: Was Matthew Tkachuk’s Hit to Mark Scheifele Intentional?
I have no idea whether Matthew Tkachuk’s hit to the back of Jets’ star Mark Scheifele’s leg was accidental or not, nor do I have a clue whether Jets’ coach Paul Maurice really believes it was intentional or whether he’s dramatizing it for strategic “coaching” purposes.
What I do know is that Maurice claims, “It was intentional.” I also know that Tkachuk claims it was “such an accident.”
To expand what was said, Maurice claimed, “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of (Scheifele’s) leg… (Tkachuk) went after the back of (Scheifele’s) leg. He could have cut his Achilles (tendon). He could have ended a man’s career. It was an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
To expand what Tkachuk said, he claims he saw Scheifele turning away along the boards and went in for a hit and his left leg accidentally collided with Scheifele’s left leg.
Specifically, Tkachuk noted, “I feel terrible. He’s a top player in the NHL and somebody I’ve come to know the last couple of summers training with Gary Roberts and he’s such a great guy. Just a top player in the league and it’s not good for the game when somebody like that isn’t in the game. It was very unfortunate and unlucky and such an accident and I feel terrible about it.”
However, because Thachuk’s Tkachuk, one has to question his intention. Depending upon which team you’re rooting for, he’s a hero or a villain. Furthermore, Maurice has to know that (a) his claims of Tkachuk’s misconduct might influence officiating or (b) fire his own players up a bit. On the other hand, they just might plant Tkachuk further into the heads of his own players. Maurice’s comments are – either way – walking the line.
From my perspective during Game 2, I thought the Jets’ players played Tkachuk well. They seemed to turn the tables on the young Flame and hit him during and after almost every play. If you’re a Jets fan, that just seems perfect.
Item Two: Nikolaj Ehlers Scored the Game-Winner
Before Ehlers scored the game-winning goal in Game 2 against the Flames, he’d been in a huge playoff-scoring slump. In fact, he hadn’t scored in 22 straight playoff games. His Game 2 was also less than stellar. His unfortunate turnover immediately led to a Flames’ goal, and he took an undisciplined penalty during period three when the game was up for grabs at 2-2.
Fortunately, the Jets killed off that power play and, during a power play of their own shortly afterwards, Ehlers’ well-directed tip of a Neal Pionk point shot became the game winner. Ehlers might need to show more offense for the Jets to win this series.
Item Three: Connor Hellebuyck Holds the Fort for the Victory
It wasn’t Connor Hellebuyck’s best performance, but his 28 saves helped stake the Jets to victory. He seemed to have lost his focus a bit during the second period when the Flames scored two goals in six minutes; still, 27-year-old Hellebuyck slammed the door in the third and his team rallied.
There’s no day off for Hellebuyck, and it’s unlikely coach Maurice would start backup Laurent Brossoit in today’s game or anytime during the postseason.
Item Four: Jets’ Injury Update
As of Tuesday morning, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Mason Appleton were listed as day-to-day. Appleton’s injury was listed as “undisclosed,” and it looks as if Laine’s wrist injury will keep him out for another game. As noted above, Scheifele’s leg will keep him out for today’s game. As it stands, unless there’s a quick update, none of these Jets players will play today.
What’s Next for the Jets?
No pun intended given Tkachuck’s possible skulduggery with Scheifele’s injury, but the Flames must be kicking themselves that they didn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity they had when they dropped Monday’s game to an injury-riddled Jets team. Now, rather than taking a commanding two-game lead in their Western Conference Qualifying series, they have a fight on their hands.
Can the Jets build off their victory? They turned the table on Tkachuk by muscling him around a bit during and after the plays, and I think they have to make him watch his back. To the Jets’ credit, the team won without Hellebuyck stealing a game – and he has that potential.
It will be interesting to see how the game unfolds.