Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Nazem Kadri’s line (with the kids) played excellent in final game of 2022-23 season
10 months ago
So much was going on before and during the final regular season game for the Calgary Flames against the San Jose Sharks. Before everything went down on the ice, Matthew Coronato and Dustin Wolf were both called up to play in their NHL debuts. Jakob Pelletier was also slotted back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch since March 20, giving Flames fans every reason to tune in.
Then, shifting to the ice and looking after the rookie solo laps for the newest winger and goaltender, we got to watch Nikita Zadorov score a hat trick – the third one from a defenceman that occurred this season (the others being Erik Karlsson in November and Erik Gustafsson in December). However, Pelletier and Coronato were on the same line with Nazem Kadri to start the game, so they were under the spotlight as much as the man in the blue crease, and boy, did they perform extremely well.
From their first shift at the outset of the game, they controlled the puck well, forechecked hard, and created plenty of turnovers that turned into rush chances going the other way.
What did the numbers say about how good they were? At 5v5, they played the most out of any line with 12:18 of time on ice, and per Natural Stat Trick, they had the highest Corsi and Fenwick for percentages (CF%/FF%) of any Flames forward lines at 75.76 (25 CF – 8 CA) and 76.19 (16 FF – 5 FA) percent, respectively.
Their expected goals for percentage (xGF%) was slightly below average at 48.29, and it’s partially because, per Natural Stat Trick, they only generated 0.48 expected goals for and allowed 0.51 expected goals against, which were second lowest and second highest among the combinations.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the exact time of possession for the line, but the kind of shot attempt numbers they registered should be all that is necessary to understand the kind of time they spent with the puck in the offensive zone.
But enough with the numbers. Let’s look at some clips, courtesy of our very own Robert Munnich.
First, the duo of Coronato and Pelletier was electric. They were both strong on the forecheck, and it was clear that there was great chemistry there. No matter the stage of the game, it was a good bet if they were on the ice, they’d be able to find each other. I think the below clip represents that fairly well.
Now, here’s a good video of all three players on the line working in unison to create a scoring chance. Kadri intercepts the puck below the goal line; he feeds it to a cutting Pelletier, but the puck ricochets away from him, and Coronato comes in to try and clean up the scraps.
Finally, here’s a clip where the line contributed to one of three Zadorov goals from the night. Pelletier carried the puck through the neutral zone and hit Kadri to his left, who tried to sneak around the Sharks’ defender but couldn’t fully do it. However, despite the puck being knocked away slightly, he rimmed it around the boards to MacKenzie Weegar, who fed it across the blue line, and the rest is history.
One of the things that I think goes unnoticed in this clip is the role of Coronato. Even though he is the third forward in this situation, he still cuts to the middle and has his stick down to receive a pass. Furthermore, once he’s at the net, he stays there to screen the goalie and help create this goal despite not getting an assist on the play.
Coronato made it known to the media that Kadri was a huge help on the bench during his debut, and it was evident both through the eye test and the analytics that the three were gelling extremely well. Even Jonathan Huberdeau, who wasn’t on Coronato’s line, was helping Coronato too.
Pelletier went through the same process of his debut but earlier in the year, so he had some experience in this realm too, and having two young, skilled, and speedy players with a will to win on the same line should help them get the result they want.
Even though there wasn’t much for the Flames to play for in the game, the chaotic 2022-23 season ended on a high note the Pelletier-Kadri-Coronato line contributed to with their performance. They provided a glimpse into the future of the organization, and it’s one that fans should be optimistic about.
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