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Playoffmetrics: Game 4, Round 4

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Interesting personnel usage in game four paid off.

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The Calgary Flames played a whale of a game against the Anaheim Ducks but couldn't get anything past Frederik Andersen late. I thought the second goal against Freddie was pretty weak, but I likewise can't deny the shot young Micheal Ferland possesses - he has been solid in the postseason and perhaps it isn't just a fluke. Likewise, Anaheim needs to look long and hard at re-signing Matt Beleskey next season.

The Ducks started out flat in this one. Here is the even chart at even strength from Hockey Stats:

Boudreau's new line combinations didn't work out at all - he switched them up near the end of the period. He went back to the original lineup to start the second but abandoned it again as the game went on. I don't believe he went back a third time. I have no idea if he'll attempt to repeat this lineup in game five, since it was clear it didn't work well.

At the same time, the Flames deserve a lot of credit. While Anaheim was able to finally get separation in shot attempts overall, Calgary made the team work for it. Look at the unblocked attempts chart. It paints a slightly different story:

By the end of the second period, the Flames players were in front of literally everything. It isn't the smartest way to play - Calgary's own luckiness in getting point shots through millions of bodies attests to the knife edge that shot blocking as team defense can be - but it does explain how the group was able to keep Anaheim off the scoresheet until an extended power play to start the third.

Here's the excellent head-to-head datarink chart for the game:

Matt Stajan had a rough night.

Boudreau's flawed lineup forced him to creatively deploy his bench throughout this one. In what was a stroke of lucky genius, he opted to promote a pairing last night. And boy was that pairing good. Here's the even strength TOI chart:

Cam Fowler and Simon Despres was the number one pairing last night. The normally unflappable Hampus Lindholm really struggled in games three and four, and Boudreau was forced to lower his ice time as a result. I think this was a smart move and once again proves how excellent the Fowler-Despres pairing is.

Some will note the demotion of Rickard Rakell and the promotion of Nate Thompson here. In game four, I had no problem with this decision. Rakell hasn't been the best centerman in this series, and his previous line with Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano was getting nothing - except in game two, with sheltered starts. Cogliano with Thompson last night was on fire, and each time Palmieri was demoted back to the line, he looked more involved as well.

In point of fact, Cogliano himself has been outstanding in this postseason, much like last year. I stated it on social media some last night, but I think his game can benefit from less creative, direct play. Rakell opens up lanes with his vision and passing - he's going to be a great player. But it leaves Cogliano in a lot of one-on-one battles that he tends to lose. In game four, Cogliano dragged Thompson and Palmieri all over - but was better able to use his linemates to take away space on his forecheck.

His goal is a prime example. Johnny Gaudreau was caught attempting to be too fancy near his goal, but he had to cut inside to avoid Palmieri and needed to bring it back outside because Cogliano was closing and Thompson was in the high slot. Gaudreau in that tight of space allowed Cogliano to stick check the puck free and create a scoring chance.

As long as Cogliano is put with players that allow him to take away opposing space to disrupt on the forecheck well, it doesn't matter to me who he plays with. He's the star of the line this time of year. Against Winnipeg, Rakell served fine, but last night Thompson fit the role better and deservedly received more ice time.

Here's the TOI chart for all situations:

It is nice seeing Fowler given the most ice in game four. He was outstanding all game. Likewise, look at Jakob Silfverberg's usage and tell me he's not due a pay raise? The organization has some tough decisions at wing in the offseason once again - but I hope Beleskey and Silfverberg stay Ducks.