Beyond the Boxscore: Calgary Flames get great performances from their top 4 defence in Nashville

Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
6 months ago
The Calgary Flames put the pressure down early catching Juuse Saros on an off night as they rolled to a 6-3 victory in the Music City. Calgary followed their usual gameplan with a lead – pressure for 40 minutes followed by a safe defensive structure in the third period. It wasn’t so safe as the Predators found plenty of chances, but outside of one major blunder Dan Vladar was up to the challenge. The offensive explosion was a little different for the Flames, but a welcome site as their play does dictate more goals than they usually tend to get. Colour me surprised it was against one of the best 10 goaltenders on the planet.
CF% – 50.18%, SCF% – 51.29%, HDCF% – 56.23%, xGF% – 57.29%
It’s a Team Game – The best period was easily the second for Calgary as they found a long stretch with some significant chances in between the special teams. I always laugh because the more of an advantage they have the harder it is for them to score, but when the Flames have a casual attack, they can score in a quick strike transition. Part of that has to do with once establishing possession in the zone they don’t get off the wall below the circles, but when entering the zone, the team is making a valiant effort to attack the middle of the ice early to give them options off the rush. If someone on the team can find ways to attack from down low after an established cycle it would elevate the whole teams standing.
Corsi King – Jonathan Huberdeau (56.17%) has been more aggressive on the attack after his move away from Backlund (55.86%) and Coleman (55.91%) – who themselves are thriving with Mangiapane back (55.86%) on their line. It’s nice to see Huberdeau make that extra move to try and beat the goaltender in open space, that was missing from his game for a long time. Noah Hanifin (55.62%) is really having a solid year as a top 4 defenceman. He had a really mobile night which eventually led to his beautiful last second goal in the middle frame.
Corsi Clown – Adam Ružička (32.50%) and AJ Greer (32.50%) were the bottom ranked forwards while Dennis Gilbert (32.65%) and Nick DeSimone (32.65%) were the defencemen that got cooked. All I have to say about Gilbert is I hope he is okay, hitting your head on the ice like that is devastating and I’m just thrilled he did not need the stretcher. He’s been a warrior and an everyday NHLer this season, nothing but positive vibes his way.
Under Pressure –
Taken By Chance – This game was a classic Noah Hanifin (58.52 SCF% // 90.09 HDCF%) and Chris Tanev (53.83% // 88.64%) masterclass. One high danger chance against while Tanev helped get 7 for with Hanifin doing him one better aiding in 8. Follow that up with MacKenzie Weegar (62.49% // 65.63%) and Rasmus Andersson (65.22% // 61.37%) also dominating their matchups and it’s clear to see why the Flames ended up in the victory column. If your top 4 defence can play like this what the third pair accomplishes is borderline irrelevant. The problem with the Flames is these 4 all having strong games like this in unison is a non-frequent occurrence.
xG Breakdown –
xGF% – In a third period that saw so many high danger chances against you would presume they are spread out amongst the whole roster, but as the numbers show it was the lower part of the lineup that faced the hardships while the upper 2/3rds thrived across the board. 3 forward lines and 2 defence pairings playing some of their best hockey they have since the puck dropped to open the season. A well-oiled machine the coach should be proud of. The third periods the last few weeks need some work, a polar opposite from the start of the season, but the trade-off has been playing with the lead more often. 9 skaters over 60% of the quality share – the HockeyViz breakdown above shows just who thrived the most.
Game Flow –
Game Score –
Shot Heatmap –
In The Crease – One thing stood out to me in regards to Dan Vladar tonight – aggressive rebound control. A lot of pucks went off his pads and directly into the crowd. At least they were out of danger and not up the slot. He had one major gaffe but he’s going to beat himself up on that one more than anybody else could. 2.26 expected goals against at 5v5 with 2 high danger and one that’s even below the low danger threshold.
Player Spotlight – Connor Zary – He’s the straw that stirs the offensive drink of this team and he hasn’t even played 30 NHL games. The coach is being cautious with him right now and still putting him in places to succeed most nights. When he gets the green light for more ice time – which may come this season (it should in my opinion) it’s going to be interesting to see how he does. Right now he seems unphased on whether he has a good night  or bad night he comes with the past in the past and ready to play. What a find, especially after trading down twice in the draft the Flames took him in.
The Goals –
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –  
1) Noah Hanifin
2) Blake Coleman
3) Connor Zary
(Stats compiled from Naturalstattrick.com // Game Score from Hockeystatcards.com // xG and Under Pressure charts from HockeyViz.com // Game Flow and Shot Heatmap from NaturalStatTrick.com)

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