Like most of the Calgary Flames in 2020-21, Rasmus Andersson had a terrible season for the club after fully taking the reins on the team’s top pairing. He was dead last on the team in nearly every category including Corsi for (CF%), expected goals for (xGF%), and high-danger chances against (HDCA). All of those stats came just against the Scotiabank North Division, and did not inspire hope for when the 2021-22 season came around.
This season, Andersson has been strong on the top pairing, and he and partner Noah Hanifin have been playing big minutes against other team’s star players. The two have continued to build chemistry and put up good numbers in heavy minutes. Part of the Flames’ early season success has been from the pairs’ play, and the team will continue to count on Andersson to make an impact when he is on the ice.
Andersson Sticks on the First Pair
Despite having a rough 2020-21 not even a year ago, head coach Darryl Sutter put Andersson on the top pairing with Hanifin before the very first game. Before the start of the season, I had originally pencilled him in on the second pairing while having Hanifin and Chris Tanev as the top pair after the brilliant season they had together in 2020-21. But the continued excellence of Hanifin to go with a bounceback season for Andersson has reaped benefits for Sutter early on.
Andersson is currently averaging 22 minutes of ice time per game, and has been pitted against elite competition night in and night out. He has also been tasked with helping run the first-unit power play, which has paid dividends, as he has five of his eight points on the man advantage. Of his five assists up a man, three of them have been primary. This season he has consistently shown that he is more than capable of playing on Calgary’s top pairing, facing elite competition and running the backend on the power play.
Hanifin and Andersson Building Chemistry
Over the past two seasons, Andersson and Hanifin have played 544 minutes together but through 17 games already this season they’ve played 244 minutes. While their 51.9 CF% and 52.8 xGF% aren’t outstanding numbers, it’s encouraging for the team and Andersson himself after a tumultuous season previous and with Hanifin missing most of the preseason after coming off of season-ending shoulder surgery.
Both players are smooth skating and can move the puck from their own end very well. If one decides to pinch at the blue line, the other is well-positioned in case the pinch fails. They have been solid in their own end so far as they have been on the ice for just four goals against at five on five while being out there for 12 Calgary goals.
Andersson Providing Stability on the Right Side
Calgary has seen somewhat of a revolving door on the right side of its defence over the last few seasons. Andersson was a highly touted prospect once he hit the ground running in the American Hockey League (AHL) and then received his last call-up to the big club in 2017-18. After a rocky season that saw him play more minutes against elite competition, some wondered if he was up to the task.
A top-pairing right-shot defender is one of the most sought-after players in the NHL, and during the Flames’ impressive start, Andersson has been a key part of the team. His bounce-back not only in the stat category, but also how he looks on the ice, should be encouraging for the team and Flames’ fans. It was a season to forget in 2020-21 for most of the players on the Flames, but many have rebounded this season, including Andersson, who has made himself a major factor on the blueline while helping the team to second place in the Pacific Division.
Brett is a freelance writer covering the Calgary Flames here at The Hockey Writers. He is an enthusiast of hockey stats and continues to learn every day about the sports analytics movement. Brett enjoys using both statistical analysis and the old-fashioned eye test in his writing to create the best content for readers. His work at THW has been featured on the Calgary Flames’ news feed for The Score and on Yardbarker. Brett is also part of THW’s Flames Faceoff YouTube/podcast show where he brings his opinions each week on the team’s current state of affairs.