Something tells me that going into this Stanley Cup Finals series against the Canucks, the Bruins are going to have a tougher time cracking these Vancouver D.
With all do respect to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their defensive core, none of them have a Kevin Bieksa on their team…one bad man.
2010-11 season stats: 6-16-22, team-high plus-32, 73 PIM, 105 shots on goal
2010-11 post season: 5-4-9, team-high plus-10, 37 PIM, 21 shots on goal
– Plays on Vancouver’s top shutdown duo with Dan Hamhuis.
– Led the Canucks in plus-minus during regular season with plus-32 rating.
– Spends a lot of time killing penalties but doesn’t typically see a lot of power play time. He started seeing some towards the end of the last series versus San Jose because of an injury to Christian Ehrhoff. If he does play on the power play, it’s usually on the second unit.
– Leads the Canucks in average ice-time per game in these playoffs at close to 26 minutes per game.
Bieksa right now is at the top of his game. That is the most concise was to put it. If you had only watched this years’ playoffs, you would be blown away at the play of Bieksa as he’s been solid during the playoffs. But in the history of Bieksa in Vancouver, this really hasn’t been the case. In previous years he has had some sub-par season that were also plagued by freak injuries (two leg lacerations) that kept him out of the lineup for long stretches.
During the summer when Mike Gillis acquired Ballard through trade and signed Dan Hamhuis as a UFA, it looked like Bieksa was going to be the “odd-man” out on the now crowded blue line. Fans and media were expecting Gillis to trade Bieksa for a player to help our bottom six forwards. Then a mid-summer injury to Salo while playing ball-hockey back in Finland, has Salo out for at least four months with a torn Achilles tendon. This created some cap space for Bieksa’s contract and a need for Bieksa’s services on the blue line.
Throughout this year’s regular season, Bieksa has been like the Bieksa we had all hoped for. He was aggressive, made smart decisions with the puck, was physical and brought offense to the Canucks’ blue line. His pairing with Dan Hamhuis brings a calming influence to his game and allows Bieksa to jump up on the play when he knows that his back is covered by Hamhuis if he gets caught. I think his pairing with Hamhuis has been a major component to Bieksa’s success.
In the playoffs Bieksa has been a complete workhorse and has been averaging around 26 minutes a game. Him and Hamhuis has been the shut-down pairing of the Canucks and has been up to the task against each team. Although none of our defence are considered huge, Bieksa has brought a huge physical component to the playoffs but the biggest upside has been his ability to read the play and jump up when the opportunity presents itself, like when he jumped up on the rush in a game against San Jose.
Since Bieksa is in the last year of his contract with the Canucks, it seems that with every game he keeps upping his asking price for his next contract. Bieksa is playing the best hockey of his career during these playoffs and seems to be able to up his game as the team advance through each round. If he continues like this, he might end up as one of the favorites for the Conn Smyth after the SCF is all said and done. It’s weird to think that without Salo’s injury during the off-season, the Canucks may have been without Bieksa this season.
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