Less than 48 hours after being pushed to the brink of elimination, the Winnipeg Jets took to the ice in a do-or-die Game 4. Still without the likes of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Mason Appleton, the Jets needed a repeat performance of Game 2 if they had any hopes of forcing a decisive Game 5.
Unfortunately, despite enjoying the luxury of being the home team once again, the eerie silence of Rogers Place echoed a little louder as the Jets were sent packing, following a deflating 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames.
While some would advocate that it’s nearly impossible to win a game — let alone a playoff series — without your top players, this loss will undoubtedly leave a sour taste in the mouths of Jets fans as they are met with yet another postseason failure. Here are three takeaways from Game 4 as the Jets prepare to head home for what promises to be a busy offseason.
1: Hellebuyck Was Good, Talbot Was Better
When Flames head coach Geoff Ward announced that Cam Talbot would be his team’s qualifying-round starter, I was shocked. After David Rittich single-handedly carried the Flames through stretches of the season, I thought he would be the unanimous number one heading into the playoffs.
With that being said, Ward’s hunch is clearly paying off as Talbot sparkled once again in Game 4, going a perfect 31/31 and making some show-stopping saves along the way.
Vezina finalist Connor Hellebuyck, who promised to be better ahead of Game 4, delivered on his promise, allowing just two goals on 32 shots (excluding the pair of empty netters). However, that didn’t prevent Talbot from stealing the show between the pipes as Game 4 was a classic case of a goaltending showdown.
2: Jets Made 2 Costly Mistakes
At the end of the day, when are a team’s mistakes exposed the most? When the other team capitalizes. That was certainly the case on Thursday night, as the Jets made two big mistakes in the first period that ended up costing them the game.
The first one? Allowing Dillon Dube to sneak in behind the defence and have not one but two wacks at the loose puck before finally being able to bury the game’s opening goal. The second? Letting Sam Bennett, who had an outstanding game, waltz right to the front of the net, ultimately jamming home the rebound to put the Flames up two, late in the first period. Cody Eakin and Mathieu Perreault won’t enjoy seeing that replay.
And that’s the unfortunate thing, because when you look back at the replay, Eakin, Perreault, and Nick Shore would be the first people to tell you that they made mistakes and that fixing them would be a relatively simple task.
The bittersweet aspect of it all is that the Jets actually played a fairly good team game overall, good enough to win. Some stellar saves by Hellebuyck and speed on the perimeter drove the Jets offense. However, a hot goalie in Talbot along with a few missed opportunities had the Jets desperate for a goal throughout the entirety of the game.
3: Sam Bennett, Winnipeg’s Kryptonite
Game 4 presented a much different look than the games previous. Both teams were a lot more disciplined, which allowed the pace of the game to pick up wherever possible.
However, there was one glaring change to the Calgary game plan that, in my opinion, helped them clinch a first-round berth. His name? Sam Bennett.
Bennett, in just over 13 minutes of ice time, had a massive impact in Game 4. Landing eight hits alone, including a couple bone-crushing hits on Neal Pionk, allowed Calgary to exemplify the definition of playoff hockey.
Chipping in with a much-needed goal as well, Bennett did everything right to drive the Flames towards victory. Playing between Dube and Milan Lucic provided an ideal depth scoring combination for Ward’s squad, and you can expect them to be utilized a lot more often as Calgary’s playoff journey continues.
4: Injuries Were the Story of the Series
If and when the Jets look back at what they could’ve done better, I’m not sure they’d be able to come up with much.
Nearing the end of Game 4, Nikolaj Ehlers stumbled awkwardly against the end boards and went to the bench in some discomfort. If that doesn’t sum up the series for the Jets, I don’t know what does.
At the end of the day, injuries severely plagued Winnipeg’s hopes of moving on, as they were faced with an uphill battle less than 10 minutes into Game 1. And while, yes, the Flames will gladly take the series victory, the Jets are undoubtedly left thinking about what could’ve been as they begin the trip home.
The Summer Ahead…
What’s next for the Jets? In short, a busy summer. With a star studded free agent class set to hit the market, Kevin Cheveldayoff and company certainly have a fair share of work to get to in order to prepare for next season.
While the logistics of next season remain in question, the Jets should hold their heads high and remember that the best is yet to come. With a core that’s under contract, cap space to spare, and exciting defensive prospects on the rise, the Jets should be one of the premier teams in the league for years to come.