Canucks survive with 4-1 win behind Bieksa's big night

Bieksa.jpgChicago Blackhawks 1, Vancouver Canucks 4

Blackhawks lead series 3-2

The Vancouver Canucks did a lot of talking leading up to Game 5, and some wondered if this was a team on the brink of falling apart. Their goaltender wasn’t focused, Shane O’Brien was the most outspoken player on the team and the coach routinely shot down anything the players had to say publicly.

You have to hand it to them though; they pulled it together to play one heck of a complete game to secure a big 4-1 victory to hold off elimination for at least one more game. While the Canucks will certainly need more from the Sedins if they hope to pull off a comeback in this series, there’s no overlooking the tremendous job that Christian Erhoff and Kevin Bieksa did tonight in leading their team to a win.

The Canucks entered the series already shorthanded on defense, and towards the end of the first period lost Sami Salo when he was hit with a puck. Erhoff and Bieksa instantly became the most important players on the ice for the Cancucks, and the two combined for three goals and four points. Bieksa led his team in ice time and had two goals and an assist himself, a great sign for the Canucks as it looks like Salo might be out for a significant amount of time.

Aside from the solid play of the defense, the key to the win was the newfound discipline of the Canucks. Looking like a completely different team than what we saw in games 3 and 4, the Canucks were in control emotionally for most of the game and never gave the Blackhawks a chance to get their agitating act going. Roberto Luongo did have a bit of a loose-lipped moment at the end of the 2nd period, but for the first time all series finally looked comfortable in net.

This was helped by a Chicago Blackhawks team that seemed ill prepared for taking on a good hockey team that had it’s back against the wall. Gone were the aggressive and confident Blackhawks that rattled off three straight wins; this was a team that just sleepwalked through the first 53 minutes of the game. If it weren’t for some timely Antti Niemi saves we’d have had another Game 1 debacle on our hands.

As for Salo, we’re still waiting on word as to the severity of his injury. At first, it seemed as though he was hit in the wrist or the abdomen. After watching the video replay, it could be much worse; it seems he could have been hit in the…ahem.. groin area with the puck. We’ll update when we know more.

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    Canucks recall Jordan Subban

    NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Jordan Subban, 84th pick overall by the Vancouver Canucks, poses for a portrait poses for a portrait  during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    The Vancouver Canucks have called up defenseman Jordan Subban from the AHL.

    Subban, the youngest brother of Nashville’s P.K. Subban, has nine goals and 13 assists in 34 games for the Utica Comets this season. The 21-year-old is not very big, and he’s had to work on his defensive play, but as his statistics suggest, he does have good offensive abilities.

    It remains to be seen if Subban will actually play for the Canucks, who host Florida tomorrow and then hit the road for a three-game road trip starting Sunday in Chicago. Vancouver also announced today that d-man Andrey Pedan has been reassigned to the AHL. Pedan’s 30-days waivers exemption was set to expire today; hence, that move.

    Subban is unlikely to get into the lineup unless Troy Stecher is unable to play. Stecher has reportedly been battling the flu and only logged 11:50 of ice time in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Nashville.

    The Canucks have three defensemen on injured reserve: Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton, and Philip Larsen.

    Related: Jordan Subban has ‘a great opportunity’ to prove himself to Canucks

    Flames healthy scratch slumping Bennett

    CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Sam Bennett #93 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    The tough times just got tougher for Sam Bennett.

    Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Flames host the Preds at the Saddledome, head coach Glen Gulutzan announced.

    The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.

    “It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”

    Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.

    Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.

    And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.

    But it’s been tough sledding ever since.

    The Kings need more from their ‘top guys’

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings reacts to a missed chance during a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    Darryl Sutter wants more from his “top guys.”

    In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.

    Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.

    “You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”

    Jeff Carter (23 goals) and Tanner Pearson (14) are the only Kings with double-digit goal totals this season. And with no Tyler Toffoli, it’s even more important that Kopitar and Gaborik start chipping in more regularly.

    Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.

    The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.

    It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.

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    Seth Griffith is on waivers….again

    SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Seth Griffith #24 of the Florida Panthers takes a shot on Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens during a game  at BB&T Center on December 29, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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    Seth Griffith is on waivers again.

    The 24-year-old forward has only managed five assists in 21 games for the Florida Panthers since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Leafs had claimed Griffith off waivers from Boston at the beginning of the season.

    A prolific scorer at the AHL level (he had 77 points in 57 games for Providence last season), Griffith has just six goals and 10 assists in 58 career NHL games.

    Griffith has been a healthy scratch the past three games for the Panthers.