Manitoba·Analysis

One game away from elimination, Winnipeg must figure out a way to stop the bleeding

The Calgary Flames are quite literally smelling blood right now, after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 6-2 in a victory that places the Flames on the precipice of a qualifying-round victory.

Jets on brink after bruising loss to Calgary, in which the Flames scored 3 power-play goals

Cody Eakin checks on Tucker Poolman after the Jets defenceman blocked a shot with his face during the second period against the Calgary Flames in Game Three of their best-of-five qualifying series. Poolman returned in the third period, but Winnipeg could not claw its way past Calgary. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

After four and half months of a pandemic-induced pause, the Winnipeg Jets were ready for the unusual spectacle of midsummer hockey.

Four days after the Stanley Cup playoffs started, the Jets are almost bloodied and bruised enough to be characters in the nordic slasher flick Midsommar, minus that scene at the end with the ... well, we're not going to get that graphic.

The Jets' qualifying round best-of-five series against the Calgary Flames has been gory enough.

In Game One on Saturday, first-line centre Mark Scheifele, power-play sniper Patrik Laine and high-energy fourth-liner Mason Appleton were all injured seriously enough to miss the next two games of the series.

In Game Three on Tuesday, whirligig Winnipeg winger Mathieu Perreault also succumbed to injury, as he has so many times before during his time with the Jets.

Defenceman Tucker Poolman stopped a Mikael Backlund shot with his face, shedding enough blood on the ice to require a Rogers Centre clean-up crew to remove the snake-like trail he shed as he was helped back to the Winnipeg bench.

Poolman managed to hold on to all of his teeth as well as enough hemoglobin to return for the third period, with a cage covering his inflamed face.

Winnipeg, however, could not muster enough adrenaline to withstand a Calgary team that is quite literally smelling blood right now, after defeating the Jets 6-2 in a victory that places the Flames on the precipice of a qualifying-round victory.

Jets need penalty-kill unit to step up

"We have to win one game. There's no magic to it," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said following the literal and figurative bloodbath, which left the Jets down two games to one in the best-of-five series.

If the Jets don't win Game 4 Thursday, they will be free to leave the Stanley Cup playoff bubble in Edmonton by the early hours of Friday morning.

In order to do that, Winnipeg will have to do a better job killing penalties. 

On Tuesday, Calgary scored three goals on four power-play attempts as Winnipeg wound up chasing the Flames around their own zone instead of boxing them out.

"If you're giving up three on the [penalty kill], you're not winning those games," Jets coach Paul Maurice said after the game. 

"Still, five on five is right there," Wheeler said, referring to even-strength competition between the two clubs. "We made a couple of mistakes that led to easy goals for them."

There were a couple of bright spots for Winnipeg, in the form of a pair of pretty goals.

Connor, Wheeler have yet to score

During the first period, defenceman Dmitry Kulikov sent the stretchiest of stretch passes — from behind his own goal all the way to the opposing blueline — to a streaking Nikolaj Ehlers, who rushed in on the wing and deposited the puck between Flames' goalie Cam Talbot's legs.

With the Jets on the power play during the second period, centre Andrew Copp did his best Kyle Connor imitation at the side of the net, shuffling the puck back and forth before raising it over Talbot.

Connor himself, however, has yet to score during this series. Wheeler also hasn't scored.

And since Scheifele and Laine are hobbled, that means four out of the Jets' top five offensive weapons have not inscribed their names on the pandemic-playoff scoresheet.

Only Ehlers, who was maligned prior to this series as the Disappearing Dane, has proven to be as dangerous as advertised.

Matthew Tkachuk was one of six Calgary skaters to tally in their 6-2 victory as they take a 2-1 series lead over Winnipeg. 1:11

Even worse, Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck seems to be suffering once again from an ailment that afflicted him in the Western Conference Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 — an inability to handle the puck behind his own net.

'I made a mistake and I paid for it'

Early in the second period, Hellebuyck failed to pass off the puck to defenceman Neal Pionk, allowing Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane to feed Backlund in front of the net for an easy goal.

"I made a mistake and I paid for it," Hellebuyck said after the game, denying he was plagued by a communication issue.

Maurice also dismissed the idea what happened with Vegas has not stayed in Vegas.

"He made the saves on their best chances," said Maurice, insisting he only needs Hellebuyck to be a good goalie, not a puck mover. "I don't need Connor Hellebuyck to drive our blue-line."

In 2018, the best Jets team in Winnipeg 2.0 history failed to unhorse the Golden Knights due to what seemed like an inability to make adjustments.

A much weaker Winnipeg squad has two days to figure out how to douse the much less formidable Flames and force a Game 5 on Saturday.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now