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'IT WAS CLICKING TONIGHT'

Hanifin talks about his monster game against Devils skating alongside new D-partner Rasmus Andersson

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Think Starsky without Hutch

Woody without Buzz.

Popcorn without the butter.

The Hamonic-Hanifin partnership may only have been a year into its union but it seemed a surefire 'til-death-do-them-part relationship.

"All the guys were giving it to us tonight about getting split up," smiled Noah Hanifin. "They were calling us The Inseparables, as a joke.

"And tonight we were separated."

Not divorced, understand.

Just a trial separation.

In an effort to freshen things up a bit along among his defence pairiings, Calgary boss Bill Peters split up the reliable firm of Hanifin and Travis Hamonic as an experiment Thursday night, using Hamonic on the No.-1 pairing alongside skipper Mark Giordano, moving Hanifin to partner Rasmus Andersson and deploying Michael Stone with T.J. Brodie.

The end result: A polished 5-2 dispatching of the New Jersey Devils at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

There was much positive to take from not only the result but the quality of performance. Particularly the Hanifin and Andersson collaboration.

Everything about them as a tandem was crisp, smooth, confident.

"We're really good friends on and off the ice and we did play a little bit together last year," reminded Andersson. "I'm really happy for him to have a night like he did tonight and it's something to build on, for sure."

Hanifin's innate offensive skills, particularly that strong, fluid skating stride, shone through, a goal and two helpers representing his highest offensive output in Flames' silks.

Shining behind the Jersey net, No. 55 made a sweet pass to arrange a Sean Monahan snipe from the slot, and collected a helper on Mikael Backlund's snooker effort that took the slightest of defections off Devils' D-man Andy Greene's stick, before creating time and space for himself moving laterally to wrist a powerplay shot behind Jersey goalie MacKenzie Blackwood to count the vital 4-2 goal only 14 seconds from the second intermission.

"He's dynamic and getting a little juice off the powerplay time, did a good job walking the line,'' praised Peters. "He's very athletic in that regard, and does a good job opening up space on the flanks.

"I thought he had a really good game, I don't know what his minutes were like but I thought he impacted the game in a lot of different ways."

 

Video: "We didn't really take our foot off the gas pedal."

 

On this night, Hanifin also cranked a heat-seeking missile off iron, registered four shots and finished +1 in 20:42 of on-ice toil.

"It was clicking tonight, for sure,'' admitted Hanifin. "I felt good about my game but a lot of that was due to our team play. Everyone was moving the puck well, no hesitating, weren't giving crappy passes.

"I feel I'm at my best when I'm skating, trying to create offence. When I'm not moving my feet, I'm not as good a player.

"When I was younger, at B.C., I felt I skated a lot. I started getting away from it a little bit but I feel skating is one of my strongest assets and I could use it more."

Hanifin's star turn certainly didn't come as surprise to Derek Ryan, a longtime teammate dating back to their Carolina days.

"He had a lot of confidence tonight," said the centre, who scored his third of the season. "He wanted the puck on his stick, wanted to make plays. And a skilled guy like that, particularly a defenceman, when he plays with that belief …

"Well, you saw the results all night tonight."

No matter how long or short a stretch of time they stay together right now, the poised interchange shown by the 23-year-old Andersson and 22-year-old Hanifin certainly bodes well gazing down at the horizon a ways.

"Me and him, same draft year,'' said Hanifin. "Both young guys. We feed each other pretty well. You don't want to look too far into the future but we both what to do our jobs to help this team win. If that means playing together in the future, so be it.

"We're all interchangeable and that's a good option to have.

"I thought (Hamonic) was great with Gio. Rock solid. Sometimes it's good to freshen things up a bit and play with someone new.

"I thought that helped tonight."

 

Video: "A lot of good things in the game tonight."

 

Just a solid display all round, particularly with the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues already in town and awaiting Saturday's clash.

"That was the identity we've got to play to,'' emphasized Hanifin. "We kept it simple, got pucks in deep and forechecked well tonight. Which is why we had a lot of offensive chances and got pucks behind their D-men.

"We didn't take our foot off the gas pedal. Even in the third we were still trying to make plays. In the third, you don't want to lay off at all. I thought we did a good job of that."

Unquestionably his goal, the timing, the gap it created heading into the closing 20 minutes, was, in retrospect, the deal clincher.

"I thought everybody found a way to do the right thing on that play,'' praised Peters. "I don't know … looked like it went off something. Hanny kind of sifted it in there, Looch was at the net, Backs was in a high-tip position. Just a lot of little things that led to that.

"Any time you can get an early goal or a late goal in this sport, obviously a lot of momentum. And that was huge. The guys, I know, felt good in-between periods and continued to keep their foot on the gas and do it right."

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