When Kevin Bieksa went down with a groin injury, Andrew Alberts came in to play his first two games of the season. Surprisingly, when he returned, Alberts stayed in the lineup and Keith Ballard came out. Then, when Bieksa couldn’t go against Calgary, Cam Barker drew in to the lineup for his first game of the season, while Ballard remained in the press box.
It’s a decision that doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface. Ballard is a better player than Alberts and Barker and was playing with newfound consistency to start the season. His pairing with Chris Tanev was playing fairly sheltered minutes, but was getting good results, to the point that he and Tanev remained together when Vigneault and Bowness started juggling defence pairs 5 games in.
That pairing has been split up recently, however, as Tanev has begun to take on a larger role in the Canucks’ defence corps. While Tanev excels, however, Ballard has found his ice time steadily declining and it now appears that Ballard is back at the bottom of the Canucks’ defensive depth chart.Continue Reading —›
There was a momentary thrill of excitement when Dan Hamhuis flipped Milan Lucic with a textbook hipcheck. It bore a strong similarity to his midseason decimation of the Sharks’ Douglas Murray and had the potential to take Lucic off his game and focus the Bruins’ attentions on abstract concepts like “revenge” rather than the more concrete goal of, well, scoring goals.
That momentary thrill was immediately replaced by concern when Hamhuis dropped to all fours and disappeared inside a scrum. After watering Hamhuis with Gatorade (it’s got what plants crave), the Bruins likely felt like complete tools when he limped to the bench, headed straight down the tunnel, and didn’t return for the rest of the game. This has raised some concerns as Hamhuis likely will not return to the Canucks lineup for Saturday’s Game 2 and is questionable for the rest of the series.Continue Reading —›