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‘Security blanket’ Tanev puts his body on the line for Flames

Chris Tanev Calgary Flames Chris Tanev - The Canadian Press

On Monday versus the Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames blueliner Chris Tanev did something that has only been done two other times in the past four NHL seasons combined: He blocked 10 shots in a regular-season game.

But the steady, stay-at-home defenceman, who had returned to Calgary’s lineup Monday after being out a week with an upper-body injury, had no clue he’d accomplished the feat in the Flames’ 3-1 win over the visiting Panthers.

“Whenever we win, I feel great,” Tanev deadpanned after Wednesday’s practice ahead of a pre-Christmas road trip to Anaheim and Los Angeles.

“I had no clue. I thought I blocked two shots. [Fellow blueliner Rasmus Andersson] told me after. I don’t think I blocked 10, to be honest.”

The last NHLer to block 10 shots in a regular-season game was Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Ivan Provorov – he did it as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2022-23. The NHL record for the most blocked shots in a game (15) belongs to former Flame Kris Russell during the 2014-15 season.

“Honestly, I’m pretty used to it by now,” Tanev’s defence partner Noah Hanifin said.

“I’ve seen the way he’s played for so long. You don’t really expect anything else when he’s back there. When he has an opportunity to get in the way and block a shot and sacrifice his body for the team, he’s going to do it every time. That’s what makes him such a special partner and teammate.”

Head coach Ryan Huska applauded Tanev’s shot-blocking abilities, specifically his positioning. Despite the blue-collar, thankless role, Tanev has missed just 19 regular-season games over his three-plus seasons in Calgary. Earlier this season, Tanev left a game after blocking a shot with his face that required a dozen stitches.

“He knows how to do it,” Huska said.

“Over the years, he’s learned how to put his body in the right spots. Most times, he’s getting hit where he should be hit…any area he’s been hit in before, he’s got extra padding. I don’t worry about Chris because he has a real good understanding of how to place his body to keep him out of harm’s way.”

“Early on in my career, I got hurt quite a bit,” Tanev explained.

“I broke my leg a couple of times. It’s a lot with the trainers. They’ve helped me figure out where I need protection and the type of protection that’s helpful. Over the last number of years, that’s helped a lot.”

Huska has constantly used the term “security blanket” to describe the 34-year-old, praised his leadership, and said he hoped the blueliner’s mentality would rub off on his teammates. 

“When he’s back there, guys feel better about if they happen to make a mistake, there’s someone on the ice that’s probably going to cover them up,” he said earlier this week.

Tanev’s selfless, team-first mentality has put general manager Craig Conroy in a quandary.

Tanev, Hanifin, and centre Elias Lindholm are free agents next summer and it is expected that Conroy will deal at least one of them to re-tool and continue a youth movement that’s seen the likes of Connor Zary, Martin Pospisil, Dustin Wolf, and Ilya Solovyov, all 24 years old or younger, play significant minutes this season. 

Tanev fits, regardless of organizational direction. 

If the Flames (13-14-5, just three points back of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference) want to contend for the playoffs this season and beyond, he is the exact type of defenceman playoff teams need. If Calgary goes the rebuild route, there are few better role models for those young players. The Toronto native has been an integral part of the culture since signing with the Flames as a free agent in 2020. 

Other teams have that intel as well.

“He's got a different level of courage that if you can give a little bit of what he's got to other guys on your team, oh man,” Huska said.

“He's a pretty special person.”

“When you see guys doing that, that’s how you win games,” Hanifin said.

“He’s a leader on our team.”

And someone who’s modest about possessing such a crucial talent. 

“It’s not something I think about,” Tanev said.

“It’s just playing the game.”