There just seems to be a little something different about these Canucks this season, doesn’t there? They seem more confident, a little bit looser on and in Ryan Kesler’s case especially, off the ice. It just seems like they’re having more fun playing the game of hockey this past season than they have the last couple of seasons.
Maybe when you sport the best record in the league and are playing some of the best hockey around you can afford to be a little loose. The pressure is off, you can take time to not worry and rest up for the playoffs.
Something else that the Canucks have been afforded the luxury of this past season is depth. Especially on the blue line. Last year’s defensive corps didn’t have as much depth from the top pairing to the bottom. What a difference a season makes.
It’s a good thing the Canucks have had such depth on the defensive line this season seeing as how a total of 13 different defencemen have suited up at least once for the Canucks due to injuries.
Take at a look at the following list of names:
Quite the eclectic group. Thanks to injuries, seven of the names on that list have missed a minimum of 15 games. The Canucks defence this year, combined, have played a total of 484 games out of a possible 972 games, with Christian Ehrhoff leading the pack with 78 games played.
If a team were to suit up only six defencemen for a whole 82 game season, the total games played for those six would be 492. Now look at that number 484 again. It took 13 guys to get to a number that would usually be achieved by 6-9 guys.
Canucks GM Mike Gillis went into the off-season wanting to address defence. He did just that by acquiring Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard. Getting those two key players was one thing, having them stay on the ice all year, as part of the top six group of defencemen was another thing.
In fact, thanks large in part to injuries, this Saturday’s upcoming game against the Flames will be the first time all season that the top six Canucks defencemen will all suit up in the same game.
It might have come 82 games too late but Gillis will finally get to see the defensive group he wanted out on the ice. In fact, it might just be the perfect time with the playoffs coming up.
Ehrhoff and Edler, Hamhuis and Bieska, and Salo and Ballard are the expected pairings for the game on Saturday. If those six can stay healthy and contribute heavily the Canucks’ chances for a long playoff run go up a great deal.