With the steady play of Vancouver Canucks Chris Tanev yesterday against the San Jose Sharks, the picture of the defense just became a whole lot clearer. Now if that had been his first game as a pro, it would have been a different picture, but after watching him for 33 games I concur with management that he can play in the top four on D. If my memory serves me correctly, this was the first time that he has played in the top four and he didn’t look out of place beside Alex Eder.
Last night I kept track of a stat that you normally wouldn’t hear about in a game. It was how many times Tanev was able to clear the defensive zone with one pass without giving it away. I counted nine outs and only one giveaway, and that one was in the third period. Even when he knew he was going to be drilled into the boards by Joe Thornton, he chipped the puck out along the boards.
His reads were excellent, in both the defensive and offensive zones, and his first time passes were not much more than six to nine feet to the forward. Along the boards in his end, he seems to magically come out of the scrum with the puck and what really has always impressed me about him, is his quick release of the puck once he has decided where he is going with it. He’s still “Mr. Cool” with the puck, doesn’t panic, just a quick read and out!
This isn’t a revelation to me, and shouldn’t be to you either after watching him play last season.
If there is still any concern about Tanev, it would have to be that he’s a string of guy and you wonder how much pounding he could take in a full NHL season. For now though, he gives the Canucks another option if any of the other top four D-men go down once Sami Salo returns.
Will Tanev stay once Salo returns, which is expected this coming Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers? I don’t believe so, because it’s not play-off time so the Canucks will not be carrying nine D-men. Further, he’s an entry level player on a two-way contract, which means he doesn’t have to clear waivers, unlike Alex Sulzer or anyone else the Canucks feel they would like to send down.
Also, if the Canucks did want to send any other D-man down, they expose that player to waivers and the chance that they could lose him, while still paying half the salary. With D-men being a prized commodity in the NHL, and the Canucks being so tight to the salary cap – Tanev is the only choice.
This does open up another discussion on a recent article I wrote about over-paid depth players, and particularly Keith Ballard. I don’t mean to pick on him but if Ballard’s contract was a couple million or even $2.5 M, I could see the Canucks keeping him for depth, especially with what has happened in the last four years to the back-end. Realistically, the Canucks need to add even more depth with another forward and D-man, and it would help if they had more than $455,899 to work with at the trade deadline.
Tanev’s continuing steady play at the NHL level now allows GM Mike Gillis to consider trading Ballard if a deal could be done that would help the Canucks. At this time I’m not going to go into who is available that might help this team, but I will say this… if there is another top four or six D-man, along with a tough third line winger, that can put this team back in the Stanley Cup final, then it should be done. I also realize how difficult it is for Gillis to make a trade in the NHL’s “cap age”.
At least the Canucks should feel more secure in their options and direction with Chris Tanev on board, which is more than they could have said before the loss of Salo.
Ice Bits: Stop me if I’m repeating myself, but Alex Burrows is playing some of his best hockey of this season these last 10 to 12 games. It may not always show up in point production, but his defensive play without the puck shows me how complete a player he is. Throw in his penalty-killing and the work he does for the Sedins, and I would have to say that his contribution goes unnoticed way too often during the course of a game, especially from the television color commentators.
Looks like David Booth has picked up right where he left off before his injury. A goal and an assist last night and one goal against the Kings in his last two games. He has added the spark that seemed to be missing from the second line, and with his speed and talent he opens up some space for Ryan Kesler.
The other player from that line that has made a difference is Chris Higgins. Now that he has stopped taking the antibiotics that were affecting his energy level, Higgins is back to the player we have come to admire since the start of the season.
Roberto Luongo did not have a very good game as he allowed two goals on what – five or six shots? But after the performance he had against the LA Kings in which he stole a point for the Canucks, he’s allowed an off night and he did stop enough shots for a win against the Sharks.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
Video Credits – YouTube
Quote Credits – The Vancouver Sun and Province
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks