The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just around the corner, and the Calgary Flames are adding the finishing touches to their lineup. Between resting some players and doing everything they can to get Johnny Gaudreau to the elusive 100 point mark, the Flames close out the season with luxuries they wouldn’t have afforded had they not clinched first place in the West.
Yesterday, Bill Peters stated the obvious in detailing the ideal defensive corps for the playoffs.
Over the course of the season, the Flames have had plenty of opportunity to tweak their pairings. From the flexibility that Rasmus Andersson provides no matter which pairing you put him on, to the added stability on their roster since the trade deadline acquisition of Oscar Fantenberg, the Flames know exactly what they have in their defence.
Moving forward with the six players above, Peters can trust all three pairings to pull their weight defensively and generate offence as well. Each pairing boasts a high-calibre defenceman with a perfect complementing partner. Norris Trophy front-runner Mark Giordano has long-time teammate T.J. Brodie with him. An offensively-reinvigorated Travis Hamonic has Noah Hanifin‘s silky skating to back him up, and Andersson has found great chemistry alongside Fantenberg.
To see how these pairings have stacked up this season, we can look at their 5v5 results. As evidenced below, these pairings have worked well for the Flames. Deploying these pairings as is, the Flames consistently have good defencemen on the ice that Peters can rely on at any time.
|Giordano without Brodie||247:36||55.8||57.3||55.3||104.7|
|Brodie without Giordano||310:12||48.9||49.2||46.4||101.5|
Giordano has night in and night out been on the Flames’ best players. There’s no doubt about that. No matter who his partner is, Giordano is often one of, if not the best player on the ice. In limited time away from Brodie, Giordano puts up similar numbers.
When Brodie is away from Giordano, his play takes a bit of a hit. His game doesn’t look as comfortable, and chances have gone the wrong way. At times, Peters would bump Brodie down to the third pairing to give him a bit of a reset.
However, when the two are together, they’re arguably on of the best pairings in the league, and they’ve played a high level for the entirety of the season.
|Hanifin without Hamonic||356:10||47.8||43.5||43.2||102.4|
|Hamonic without Hanifin||172:42||52.2||54.3||50.8||105.2|
Hamonic’s first year with the Flames was a big disappointment. He just wasn’t the player many made him out to be. Coming into the current season, Hamonic hoped to turn thins around, and he has been as solid a player as anyone could hope for. He puts up great numbers and runs roughshod in the offensive zone.
Hanifin, comparatively, has been more of a defensive liability when not playing with Hamonic. Hanifin’s admittedly not the greatest when it comes to making decisions, and at times is just a split-second behind the play. He’s still a young defenceman with a lot of upside.
Most importantly, when Hamonic and Hanifin are together, they elevate each other’s play and boast very solid numbers. The ice time that the second pairing can eat up while still putting up great results will be crucial in the playoffs.
|Fantenberg without Andersson||23:52||37.2||41.7||37.5||109.1|
|Andersson without Fantenberg||902:06||49.1||49.6||50.9||102.4|
The arrival of Fantenberg has been a pleasant surprise. When it looked uncertain what the Flames would do in managing their defencemen, from Stone and Valimaki’s return from injury, as well as Kylington’s transition to the NHL, Fantenberg has stepped in and has made the Flames’ third pairing yet another offensive threat.
In a small sample size, the on-ice results when Fantenberg and Andersson are together have been extremely good. So good in fact, that they have the best numbers of all three pairings. Away from each other though, and they just aren’t quite as good.
Whether their performances remain at the same level in the playoffs is yet to be known, but it’s definitely worth keeping that pairing in tact and seeing what they can do.
Defence wins championships
Closing out the season with the backlog of defencemen as the Flames have had, they’ve been able to rotate players in and out of the lineup. They’ve done their due diligence and gauged where each player stood amongst each other.
Opening the playoffs with the current defensive corps will hopefully be one of many high points of the Flames’ playoff run. If things quickly go south, they’ll still have a very solid reserve of defencemen ready at the helm to step in as needed.
It isn’t really much of a secret that the Flames’ defence has been stellar, especially over the final stretch of the season. The overall defensive ability of the Flames is enviable by many other teams, and their opponents will certainly be wary of what the defence is capable of heading into the playoffs.
All stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. Header photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images.