One of the lasting memories of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Dan Hamhuis’ huge hip check on Milan Lucic that sent Lucic going end over end in front of the bench. The hit led to a bit of a scuffle that saw David Krejci go off for cross checking Hamhuis for the hit. Hamhuis came out worse for the wear from it all though leaving the game with what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault kiddingly described as a “mid-body” injury.
After today’s media gather, Vigneault says that Hamhuis is day-to-day (aren’t we all?) with that mysterious “mid-body” injury leaving his starting spot in doubt for Saturday’s Game 2. Much like how things went in the regular season for Vancouver when it comes to defensive injuries, they’ll press on and use their depth to their advantage. With Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, and rookie Chris Tanev waiting in the wings for their shot to play in the finals Vigneault is comfortable with what he’s got.
“Right now we’ve got Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev that have played some big minutes with us this year and they have done a good job,” Vigneault said. “If we need somebody to play minutes, I’m confident that they’ll be able to step in and do a real good job for us.”
During the regular season the Canucks played a total of 13 defensemen thanks to various maladies that kept the Canucks shorthanded along the blue line at different times. The list of names is staggering. You’ve already seen guys like Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Aaron Rome start in this series and you’ve seen Alberts, Tanev, and Ballard in the playoffs. During the season they trotted out the likes of Lee Sweatt, Evan Oberg, Ryan Parent, and Yann Sauve to help patch holes in the defense. Many teams that have to go that deep into their minor league well crumble thanks to the lack of depth. Instead, Vancouver has stayed strong and flourished.
While Hamhuis is an important defensive cog in their lineup, if he has to come out each of Alberts, Ballard, and Tanev offer different things to their game. Alberts is a physical player and one who used to play for the Bruins. Ballard was a starter for most of the season before being edged out of the lineup in favor of Rome. Tanev is young but well liked by the Canucks although they’d likely rather not put him in the awkward spot of appearing in the finals. In the Stanley Cup finals veteran credibility is huge, especially to Alain Vigneault.
While Hamhuis’ game is steady, putting either Alberts or Ballard has its risks as they’re both penalty liabilities. There’s also the rust factor involved with guys who don’t see a lot of playing time and that’s something Boston would likely look to take advantage of. If it comes down to that and Hamhuis can’t go, Boston will certainly look to push the issue but if Vancouver doesn’t bend nor break, don’t be surprised… They’re pretty used to this by now.