Calgary Flames

Breaking down the Calgary Flames’ defensive pairings early on-ice 2022–23 performances

The Calgary Flames have had a hot start to the season in the standings outside of a disastrous outing against a limber young Buffalo Sabres team. Darryl Sutter’s aggressive “checking” style looks to be gelling well with the new additions to the roster thus far.

The Flames are third in the league in shots per game at 36.8 while allowing only 26.8 shots per game, also ranking third in the league. That’s good indication that puck possession has been a key to success and aside from some forwards having some defensive zone issues early on, the back end has looked relatively solid.

Corsi for percentage (CF%) will be used to analyze the Flames’ defence pairings using a minimum TOI of 30 minutes. CF% is used to evaluate a player’s team’s puck possession while they’re on ice. An average CF% is usually between 45% and 55%.

Corsi For is measured using shot attempt differentials at even strength. Shot attempts include shots on goal, missed and blocked shots. A CF% above 60 is considered “elite.” All the metrics used were sourced from, and comparisons across the league don’t include the Flames’ latest game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chris Tanev – MacKenzie Weegar

Chris Tanev and MacKenzie Weegar have started the year assumed to be the best shutdown pairing the Flames have. They have looked strong thus far and Weegar’s edge is already capturing fans hearts.

The duo stack up lower than you’d think compared to the rest of the league. Tanev and Weegar’s combined CF% is 51.61, 40th overall out of 98 total pairings. The combined statistic is still on the top end of the average range, and keep in mind all of these metrics are from a small sample size.

Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Anderrson

Rasmus Andersson comes into the year displaying a boosted confidence, emerging as a potentially elite defenceman. Rasmus is averaging 24:05 minutes per game through this early stretch of the year, over three minutes higher than his 2021–22 average.

Noah Hanifin and Anderrson both had breakout seasons last year and contrast each other well. The pairing has had a slow start relative to their teammates posting a team-low CF% of 47.36. The second pairing coming into the year placed 62nd out of the 98 pairings included in the metric.

Michael Stone – Nikita Zadorov

Michael Stone has been the glowing underdog story in the first few outings of the year, much like he has been his whole career. Stone has not only played well defensively along side Nikita Zadorov, he’s also finding offence, posting four points and a goal—he added another goal in the latest game against the Penguins too. Stone earned a contract after a PTO brought him back to the team, filling in for Oliver Kylington while he’s away for personal reasons.

Zadorov has shown good play to begin the season as well, aside from some penalty trouble. Nikita’s big frame and physical play have been on display, helping to bring the pairing’s combined CF% to 63.9. The duo’s combined metric is fifth overall across the league. The first overall pairing—Carolina’s Calvin De Hann and Jalen Chatfield—posted a 77.14 CF% for reference.

The lowest pairing on the depth chart coming into the season has been the strongest 5v5 duo thus far. Stone’s proved that he deserved a return to the Flames roster and will raise some difficult decisions for management upon Kylington’s return.

Calgary’s team possession rankings

The Flames as a team place narrowly in the top half of the league at 14th of out 32, posting a 51.23 CF%. The red sweaters have been hot to start the year and hopefully some more chemistry will start to emerge as the season progresses.

The outlook on the backend

I certainly can’t complain with a 4–1–0 start in the first five games for the red sweaters, and now their 5–1–0 record after six. Aside from the Buffalo game, the team’s looked good on the power play and penalty kill. The 5v5 lines and pairings will start to gel more as the year goes on and depending on the performance of the top forward line through November, a trade may be on the horizon for a winger.

November will bring a increase in scheduling and more road games to shell out what this team is really made of. The Flames will aim to secure more leads going into their next road trip as the first three out of the four wins seen were come from behind. The defensive corps has shown glimmers of amazing play and look to continue rising as one of the best defence groups in the NHL.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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