Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
It only took 82 games but for the first time this season, the Canucks will ice their starting six D-men that had been penciled in back in September. These players will be Dan Hamhuis (back from his second concussion this season), Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Keith Ballard.
The Canucks will have a seventh defenseman who will also start, but as a forward, and that is Aaron Rome. Due to cap restrictions, now that everyone is healthy, Rome will play on the fourth line. Hey, the way things have gone for the defense this season, maybe Rome will play some defense after all.
This has to be the best possible circumstances that the Canucks have faced, as they are not only able to start these six, but with quality backups waiting in reserve. This is what Coach Vigneault had to say about that.
“We’ve had eight defencemen who have played here on a regular basis and they’ve all done at different moments a real good job for us,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault, before the team departed for Calgary on Friday. “We’ll take it a game at a time and see which defencemen we feel best suit the opponent we’re playing against and which are playing the best.”
I would think Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa will resume their partnership, Christian Ehrhoff wth Alex Edler for the second pair and Sami Salo and Keith Ballard as the final pair. Wasn’t it just last season that Sami Salo and Alex Edler were the top pair? Just shows you how well Mike Gillis has put together this back-end with the addition of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard in the off season.
Aaron Rome and Andrew Alberts round out the eight D-men, with Chris Tanev in Manitoba as the ninth. My take on the depth of the Canucks D will be that they will use all of the nine and maybe more.
It takes a whole lot of luck to go deep into the playoffs without using more than the starting six. With the depth the Canucks had this season, it allowed them to maintain their position and finish first overall in the NHL standings, along with first in their Conference.
The biggest surprise on the back-end has been Chris Tanev, who has proved to be more than adequate. He has shown experience far beyond his first season as a pro and with his steady play, will become so important in the playoffs.
Alex Edler to me is the real important cog for the D. Before he was injured he was on pace to have his finest season as a pro. If he can continue where he left off, add to the power play and provide the physical play, this surely bodes well for a deep run in the playoffs for the Nucks.
It seems strange that Sami Salo and Keith Ballard will be the third pairing, because on a lot of NHL teams they could be the starting two. Aaron Rome has proved time and time again to be a very dependable D-man, just as Andrew Alberts was before he injured his knee early in the season.
My biggest concern on the D is Dan Hamhuis. After suffering his second concussion this season, and with the physical play ratched up in the playoffs, he seems like one hit away from going down again.
Hamhuis has been the steadiest of the D, not flashy, not really physical, but when you hardly notice him that’s a positive sign. You know the opposition are going to be zeroing in on him and Bieksa. Edler, matched with Ehrhoff, is going to provide the physical punch for that pair.
Both can move the puck, rush it out of the defensive zone, play the point on the power play and kill penalties. Now the Canucks have five D-men that can play the point on the power play. Heck, make that six as Ballard played there also when he was with Florida.
Coach Vigneautl has so many more mixes and matches now with everyone healthy depending who the opposition will be.
With the final game of the season left to play tonight against the Calgary Flames, in a meaningless contest, let’s hope everyone comes through it unscathed.
It’s time to bring on the opponent, whoever that may be. Lad—ies and gentle—men, lets get ready to rum—ble!
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Goggle Images and Yahoo Sports!
To catch all the news, updates and new articles as they occur, along with the Canucks farm team, the Manitoba Moose, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/nucksiceman.com (I love this tweeting because it’s like small 140 character articles).
Note: www.nucksiceman.com is now mobile friendly. From the web address on your iPhone, you can choose Options/Mobile formatted and the site will appear in its entire living colour for you to view. Check it out.
Filed under: Vancouver Canucks