Calgary Flames @ Winnipeg Jets, 6 PM MT, Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg MB
TV: SNW – Radio: Sportsnet 960
Calgary Flames 0-0-0 – Winnipeg Jets 0-0-0
The Flames open up their 2020-21 season with a trip to Winnipeg to take on a familiar foe. The Flames and Jets will play each other nine times this season in the newly created North Division after coming off a playoff series that the Flames handled with ease.
Calgary and Winnipeg met in the qualifying round of the NHL’s Return To Play last season with Calgary dispatching the Jets in four games, outscoring Winnipeg 16-6. However, during the regular season Winnipeg defeated the Flames 2-1 in OT at the 2019 Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic game, the only time the teams would meet before Covid-19 shut down the regular season.
The Jets tinkered with their lineup a little this offseason, with Paul Stastny being the big addition. The free agent forward will join the Jets in hopes of bolstering their 2020-21 offence. Last season in Vegas Stastny had 38 points in 71 games and nine points in 18 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Jets finished 2019-20 with 213 goals, good for 16th overall in the league, so adding a little more offence won’t exactly hurt a team that was efficient at putting the puck in the net. The only thing that could derail Winnipeg’s season are reports that Patrik Laine is unhappy in Winnipeg. Laine has been one of the premiere young talents in the league, posting his third 60+ point season during the abbreviated 2019-20 season. In the end though, any team that suits up Connor Hellebuyck in goal always stands a chance night in and night out. The all world goalie is entering his fifth NHL season, where he’s started 55+ games in four of those, including a league leading 58 last year en route to his first Vezina Trophy win.
The Flames overhauled their goaltending and parts of their defence after a disappointing end to the 2019-20 post season. Jacob Markstrom was brought in to be the undisputed #1 goalie for the Flames, something they haven’t had (positionally) since Miikka Kiprusoff retired. David Rittich is no slouch either and it will be good for this Flames team to know that on their bench they have a keeper who played in the NHL All Star Game last season (Markstrom did as well). As for the defence, T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic have both moved on and the Flames replaced one of those two with former Vanouver Canuck Chris Tanev. Tanev has always been an average/serviceable defenceman, but if paired with Mark Giordano he could see a jump in his stats as was the case with Brodie when he was in Calgary.
Offence will be the name of the game for Calgary as they try to get back on track. The team was 20th in the league in scoring last season and didn’t have a player in the Top 25 in scoring. Matthew Tkachuk led the team with 61 points, but players like Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan will have to get back into that 2018-19 frame of mind where they all had close to, if not, career seasons.
The only thing left to ponder is if there will be any fallout from the collision in Game 1 of the qualifying round between Mark Scheifele and Matthew Tkachuk. The collision ended Scheifele’s post season and there really wasn’t much of a backlash during that series, so it’s probable that nothing from that spills over into the 2020-21 season. Both Scheifele and Tkachuk previously had worked out together in the offseason and clearly there was no intent on Tkachuk’s part. Then again, you know how things work with Tkachuk: someone always finds some reason to take offense with something he’s done.
The Flames are 20-15-1 against this version of the Jets, but are only 7-11-1 in 19 trips to Winnipeg.
Flames: Markstrom (E): 0-0-0, 0.00
Jets: Hellebuyck (E): 0-0-0, 0.00
Team Leaders (2019-20)
Flames: Goals- Lindholm (29), Points- Tkachuk (61), PIM- Tkachuk (74), Save%- Talbot (.919)
Jets: Goals- Connor (38), Points- Connor (73), PIM- Scheifele (45), Save%- Hellebuyck (.922)
What’s Happening With The Opposition?
Winnipeg Jets Coverage: Arctic Ice Hockey
Players To Watch
Jacob Markstrom (G): We’re not going to put too much stock one way or another into Markstrom’s first start with Calgary, but he’s clearly who most eyes will be on during this game.
Mark Scheifele (C): The aforementioned Scheifele is a key cog in Winnipeg’s machine and it will be interesting to see him fully healthy and how he handles his first regular season game since being injured.
by Mark Parkinson