For a large majority of the year I was very cynical and brutish towards Noah Hanifin. He consistently did not play up to the standards that was expected after being acquired for Dougie Hamilton. Then his D-partner Travis Hamonic went down, and in the process of reviewing numbers post-games I started to see something I wasn’t used to seeing, Hanifin was playing very well disciplined hockey. The eye test determined the same thing, less blunders and scoring chances against and a more structured system that saw quick puck transitions out of our own zone with an increased visual scoring chance rate. Even with Giordano getting hurt and his minutes spiking Hanifin continued to perform, which has caused me to dive into a breakdown of the entire d-cores numbers, in terms of pairs.
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic - The original 2nd D pairing, and one that last year seemed to have success, has been anything but that this season. At 647:13 TOI logged together at 5v5 (SVA) there’s plenty of numerical data to look at. The stat line they’ve posted together this season:
- CF% of 49.53%
- xGF% of 49.23%
- Actual GF% of 45.24%
- SCF% of 48.63%
- HDCF% of 54.07%
Clearly playing below average in all aspects of the game except high-danger chances. When the HH pair was on the ice the Flames consistently got outchanced, out possessed, and let up more quality against than they created. To see how they compared to the 3rd pair let’s bring up their statistics.
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson - This pairing of skaters saw a stud defensive machine in Rasmus Andersson paired with the smooth skating young Oliver Kylington. Together they’ve logged 392:25 at 5v5 (SVA) earning the following stat line:
- CF% of 50.66%
- xGF% of 50.79%
- Actual GF% of 42.20%
- SCF% of 53.53%
- HDCF% of 48.43%
The worst pairing in terms of differential between the expected goals they created and the actual goals that were put in the net. Not a significant difference in possession numbers, but an absolute spike in chances created compared to HH. The KA pairing had the puck more than their opponent by a minimal margin but used it to get the puck in to create an abundance of low to medium danger scoring chances.
Then the injuries happened, Mark Giordano went down, leading to the original creation of a Hanifin - Andersson pairing. Travis Hamonic went down soon after leading to the HaniRazz pair logging top minutes against high quality competition for an extended period of time. Lets see how they faired.
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson - Top pair, 2nd pair? They’ve been both for a little while now. Hanifin is a very offence first defenceman whereas Rasmus is a very good shot suppression specialist. There was a lot to like about this just from looking at it, and now that they’ve logged 353:13 together at 5v5 (SVA) we can see how they fair against the previous pairings.
- CF% of 52.32%
- xGF% of 54.72%
- Actual GF% of 53.51%
- SCF% of 54.28%
- HDCF% of 55.85%
First of all, wow, what an improvement all around for both players in comparison to their previous pairings. This pair has the closest correlation between actual goals scored and expected goals created. They create a large majority of the chances while on the ice, the bulk of which tend to be high danger. Honestly these are the numbers of a truly dominant top 4 pair in the NHL. For comparison’s sake we’ll compare these numbers to the Flames top pair.
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie - Old reliable, the ones that’s been around for years. TJ Brodie seems to have taken his game to a new level and Mark Giordano is the only Flame I see every single night compete with all he’s got and never take a backseat. In 575:49 at 5v5 (SVA) this year they are:
- CF% of 53.27%
- xGF% of 53.97%
- Actual GF% of 60.37%
- SCF% of 52.78%
- HDCF% of 51.88%
They have the puck more, they create more chances, they do this against opposing teams top lines and they do it very well. Eye test and analytics can line up on this to say well done. Now that we have all the cards laid out lets see what they tell us.
Analysis: The Hanifin - Andersson pairing has numbers that are very similar, and sometimes surpass that, of the Giordano - Brodie duo. When you look at the numbers both Hanifin and Andersson posted in their original D-pairs and compare them to what they do together it’s a truly night and day comparison. When Travis Hamonic returns from injury there has to be absolutely no discussion from coaching staff or management in breaking up these pairs. Going into a playoff race with not one but two pairings that can suppress shots, create quality at this high a rate, and finish on that quality is lethal.
These pairs eating up 40-45 mins of the 5v5 ice time should lead to easier games for our goaltenders, more chances for our skilled forwards and a higher rate of success. For the Flames to have their absolute best chance at success they simply must run GB and HaniRazz out regularly and for the love of all things good and proper never insert Michael Stone back into the lineup for any reason. They shouldn’t need to now, what with having Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, and Oliver Kylington on the bench. Having Hamonic come back into the fold they now have 15 games to mix & match on the 3rd pairing to hopefully find one that can put numbers up like the top 2 pairs against lower quality competition. Doing so would give the Flames an absolutely deadly back-end that other teams would rightfully fear.
(All stats compiled from NaturalStatTrick.com) // Any Q’s or inquiries see @Flash_33 on Twitter.