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IN IT TO WIN IT

Enough of camp, bring on the playoffs, says Rasmus Andersson, whose sights are set squarely on the Stanley Cup

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

By now, some of the sheen has worn off. 

The days are long, the skates are intense and the battles are nothing to scoff at, but nothing compares to the show that awaits. 

A real opponent.

Live bullets. 

Back in their element, coast to coast, for a chance at the Cup. 

"I've been here for probably a month now," said Rasmus Andersson. "It feels like a long time. Ever since you put your first foot in Calgary, you want to get to the playoffs. 

"I told Looch this earlier: 'I just want to go to Edmonton right now. I just want to get it going.' You can practice as much as you want and all that stuff, but ... You want it to be Aug. 1. You feel like you're ready, but we have some practices, some scrimmages and a big exhibition coming up against Edmonton. 

"But we're all really anxious to get going."

Good, because the countdown is on. 

In only two days from now, the Flames will depart the Scotiabank Saddledome and make the trek up to Edmonton, where they hope to remain for the next few months. 

Andersson, who is among a long list of players looking to make amends for last year's exit, has been waiting for this. With another season of growth and development behind him, there's a real chance to make a name for himself.

It's been a common theme throughout camp, with players going out of their way to mention the "hunger, the "bitterness," and the confidence they're approaching the dance with after learning a harsh lesson one year ago. 

"You always want to play as good as possible and you have a good opportunity to win in the playoffs," Andersson said. "Everybody's watching, there's no place to hide, and that's usually where I play my best hockey. 

"We're all in it to win the Stanley Cup."

 

 

Andersson took some incredible strides this year. The talented sophomore increased his offensive production with 22 points (5G, 17A) in 70 games, delivered in key moments such as those with the goalie pulled, and played monster minutes on the backend, smashing his career ice-time average with as much as 26 per game late in the regular season.

This, along with his all-out, hard-hitting style, sacrifice and excellent work defensively, has the 23-year-old properly geared up for the playoffs. 

"We're excited to see the steps that he takes and what he does with it," said interim head coach Geoff Ward. "The opportunities for our players are right there. They should be looking forward to it and it's going to be fun to watch them take those steps and grow into the players that they need to be at this time of the year to be successful and hoist the Stanley Cup."

Ward, who as a longtime assistant coach with the Boston Bruins and took a sip from the mug in 2011, compared Andersson's early development to that of Dennis Seidenberg. 

Seidenberg had a key role on that Cup-winning troupe in 2011, and played a total of 19 NHL seasons before retiring in 2018. 

The longtime Bruin did a bit of everything. He was primarily known as a physical, shutdown defender with a knack for shot-blocking, but also chipped in on the offence and made plays that teams need to get the puck in the hands of their skill forwards. 

"The compete level is high in both players," Ward said. "They love the game; they prepare very well; they both move the puck well; they find ways to get under the opponents' skin a little bit. 

"They're very, very similar for me in the way that they conduct their business. 

"If he can become that, we're going to be more than pleased. He shows that he may be able to trend in that direction, but we need to be patient with him and allow him to take those steps."

Andersson will likely start on the second pair with fellow 23-year-old Noah Hanifin, and will also get plenty of time on both the powerplay and penalty-kill when the Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin Aug. 1. 

Having already played together for a good chunk of the season leading into the pause, Andersson feels they have some great chemistry, along with complementing skill-sets that should allow their skating and puck-moving abilities to flourish. 

"We're not putting pressure on guys to do extraordinary things," Ward said. "He'll feel his way through the series and find ways to lead.

"We want to make sure guys are comfortable and they're put in situations to find success. Everything he's going to go through in this playoff series is good for his development. Just play your game. Understand that a lot of important things are going to be happening away from the puck. ... And when you can, add to the offence. 

"But you don't need to push it. 

"He'll find the right times."

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