Beyond the Boxscore: Defence shines as the Calgary Flames complete comeback against the Nashville Predators

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
5 months ago
The Calgary Flames never let a two-goal deficit get them down despite completely having outplayed the Nashville Predators to that point. They stuck with their game, aided by a few in-game coaching adjustments, and found a way to come back for the win. Connor Zary was the best Flame on the ice in just his third career game causing a rejuvenation of the whole lineup. An all-around improved team effort in pretty much all aspects of their game.
CF% – 62.39%, SCF% – 61.89%, HDCF% – 58.69%, xGF% – 56.93%
It’s a Team Game – The Flames came out like a cannon and yet they found themselves trailing. They made about 2 total mistakes in the first period and both ended up in the back of their net. That’s a bad break, really. Dubé’s marker re-instilled that belief after a second period where the Predators improved their game. Nashville had 58.73% of the second period 5v5 quality share, they were pushing Calgary. The only period that played out like it should have was the third which saw the Flames return to dominance and get the scoring that comes with it.
Corsi King – Mikael Backlund (78.83%) feasts on any team in the middle 20 or below. Nashville is a fringe playoff team with a lot of young pieces – not that hard for the Flames captain to create and find chances. Martin Pospisil (60.25%) provides good energy on that line while Blake Coleman (74.89%) showed everyone he can no look snipe a top 6 goaltender on the planet. Shout-out to Nick DeSimone (71.96%) with 2 apples on the night and a much more patient approach with his zone exits than Oesterle was.
Corsi Clown – Adam Ruzicka (26.31%) was in his first game back and didn’t look all quite right. Sitting for over a week can do that – but also the Duehr (37.33%) and Greer (44.32%) from earlier in the season has disappeared as well. Those guys don’t provide a lot of offensive support. Dillon Dubé (44.35%) is notable for a few very good reasons. 1) with Huberdeau out he saw limited ice time as well. 2) he was the only Flame not on the fourth line to finish below 50% on his overall attempts. He may have scored, but he was not a positive contributor on a shift-by-shift basis. He’s kind of capped on his development as a speedy-third line winger and his ice-time reflected that role.
Under Pressure –
Taken By Chance –Huberdeau (82.96 SCF% // 100 HDCF%) still showed up well in terms of chances. Not a crazy high number just involved in the one high danger, but saw none go against him. A fully healthy and together defence can aid the whole team in that regard, but the staff clearly wants more out of the guy. At his price tag it’s not just about the consistent effort – production is required. It killed me seeing him hang his head on the bench because he does still have all the skills that made him great – no confidence left to use it. He did not have a terrible game, but just doing okay isn’t enough. Shout-out to Kadri (67.95% // 77.13%) and Zary (67.95% // 77.13%) creating 7 5v5 high danger looks between them. The creative passing into open areas of the slot was new tonight – keep doing that please. Zary never stops moving his feet – in my opinion that’s the number one reason why he stands out so much on this team. He’s never caught being stationary and because of that he’s first in the race to the puck a lot.
xG Breakdown –
xGF% – So how does Huberdeau (79.74%) end up with the best quality share on the team and get benched? No! It’s not because you dislike stats, it’s because he does a really good job at helping limit the quality against him. He does have bad turnovers trying to create offence through the neutral zone – those sting the worst – but the opposition still wasn’t getting much against him. For me it reads as he isn’t providing enough in terms of his offence. He needs to be seen more visibly involved, a lot more engaged in the battles, and maybe try some of that open-ice deking we’ve seen you do in the past.
Game Flow –
Game Score –
Shot Heatmap –
In The Crease – That game is not going to help the save percentage, but the GAA and the win column will enjoy it. Both goals against him were very dangerous chances on defensive gaffs from the Flames skaters. On all the properly contested/defended shots Markstrom stood tall and controlled his rebounds. There was no such garbage left dang near all night long. Most importantly Markstrom did not find a way to let a weak goal in like last year – he’s really turned over a better page this season even if the wins haven’t come.
Today’s Specials – Marc Savard, fix your power play break-in. The players sell the drop pass as effectively as a bad criminal would sell stolen TVs to undercover cops. Figure out your best puck carriers, find a way to get them coming through the middle of the ice with speed, and weave your way in through the defenders. It doesn’t have to be a dump to get around them – chip it just behind them and then take it to the corner with speed. Once the pucks low and the defenders get drawn down find some space – you are a man up, it’s there. Once settled then get the puck on Zary’s stick first. Him moving down with speed off the short side is such a relief to watch – he opened up space and better passing lanes for his teammates. Bumped to PP1 already there is zero reason to move him off.
Player Spotlight – the defence – When you get all three defence pairings on the same page in their own zone, capable of pushing the play up the ice and onto the attack it helps so much. With the Andersson suspension and a multitude of random smaller injuries the team hasn’t had a consistent back-end. DeSimone didn’t look out of place and Zadorov showed he is more than just okay at getting the puck through the neutral zone. It shouldn’t have to be Zadorov carrying the puck, but if the paths not there I no longer mind him jumping up. Throw in top level showings from Andersson, Hanifin, and Tanev and you get one dominant game from the whole team. Amazing game from the Flames defence.
The Goals –
Flashalytic’s 3 Stars –  
1) Connor Zary
2) Nazem Kadri
3) Mikael Backlund
(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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