G1 Calgary Flames @ Winnipeg Jets: Let the fun begin!
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Five things to watch when the Calgary Flames open their season against the Winnipeg Jets:
1. A golden opportunity.
Dillon Dube showed flashes throughout the regular season but he wasn’t overly efficient in terms of producing points. That changed in the playoffs where, quite honestly, he was one of the team’s best, and most productive, players skating a regular shift on the 3rd line. He is getting the best chance imaginable to build on that as he is expected to skate on the top unit tonight alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. The Flames are going with a more balanced approach this season where they’ll plug various wingers into top-9 slots and see what sticks. Dube is getting the first kick at the can up top. Let’s see if he can take advantage.
2. Bad blood.
Matthew Tkachuk ended Mark Scheifele’s season in the bubble. I don’t think it was intentional but Paul Maurice and some of the Jets clearly did. Tkachuk already answered the bell to Blake Wheeler but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still some sour grapes and the Jets target No. 19. We know Tkachuk is quite good at keeping a calm head, and drawing penalties, in heated situations so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this work in Calgary’s favor.
3. Can they hold up?
This shouldn’t be a question you have to ask about a defense pairing with a combined salary of nearly $9.5 million per season but, sadly, it is. Noah Hanifin is prone to head scratching blunders, and Chris Tanev’s defensive game took a significant step back last season. The Jets do have a lot of firepower up front so they’ll be tested. We’ll see if they are up to the challenge.
4. Jacob Markstrom’s debut.
The Calgary Flames paid him a lot of money to stabilize their goaltending position. Whether that proves to be a smart decision long-term remains to be seen, but there is no debate he makes the Flames a much better team right now. I don’t think they need him to steal games; at least not now (maybe against a team like Toronto). But he best not lose them games.
5. Juuso Valimaki.
He absolutely tore it up in Finland. I’m talking a point per game and a billion shots on goal. He was flat-out dominant. Obviously, the NHL is a different animal but it doesn’t look like Valimaki will miss a beat after missing a full season of hockey. I think his development is as important as anything to the Flames this year. If he is ready to take the next step, and can play at a top-4 level, the Flames could be dangerous.
Puck drop is just after 8 eastern and can be seen on TSN3 and SNW.
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