Moving along with our series preview against the Vancouver Canucks.. it's time to look at the one weak spot the Canucks have. While the two teams match up pretty evenly across the board - defense is one aspect where the Hawks have the clear advantage. The Nucks are banged up here with Willie Mitchell still out and no sign of coming back soon.
After the jump - we'll break down the three pairing the Nucks will be rolling out against the Blackhawks
#6 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Sep 02, 1974
|2009 - Sami Salo||68||9||19||28||14||18||6||0||3||0||119||7.6|
#23 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Apr 21, 1986
|2009 - Alexander Edler||76||5||37||42||-1||40||2||0||0||0||161||3.1|
This is the top pairing for the Nucks... Biscuit and Keith it is not. Don't get me wrong - they're good players. But they're not names that really make you quake, are they? Salo is the oldest member of the Canucks but hasn't really built a reputation as a leading veteran presence. He's a bit on the fragile side - his career high for games is only 79 but he hasn't broken 70 since the lockout. Last year he missed a good part of the series with a possible VD. He still has a hard shot and will be out quite a bit for the power play. He's strong in his own end too and the Nucks will really need to lean on him. Edler is becoming a nice star for the Canucks, stepping into the top role after Willie Mitchell went down with a concussion. He was -1 for the season but put up 42 points so watch for him on the power play. He's not a player I would really throw all in with though.
#5 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Jul 06, 1982
|2009 - Christian Ehrhoff||80||14||30||44||35||42||6||0||3||0||181||7.7|
#55 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Aug 09, 1983
|2009 - Shane O`Brien||65||2||6||8||15||79||0||0||0||0||37||5.4|
Ehrhoff will be the answer to Brian Campbell perhaps with a slight bit more defensive ability but not much. He's a great skater and can take control of a power play but he isn't too strong in his own end, especially against a solid forecheck system from big forwards. With the Hawks looking to put a big body on every line - pressuring Ehrhoff will be a goal up there with getting in Lou's head. This is his first year with the Nucks and he's set a career high in games played, goals, points, +/- and TOI. O'Brien on the other hand is a blue liner that brings the physical aspect of the game and not much else... except the booze (And for the record, the girls in the limo are all more attractive than the one above with SOB). He doesn't have the positioning/IQ of someone like Hjalmarsson that will allow him to support an offensive d-man like Ehrhoff/Campbell. Last year he was the Nucks 6th d-man, now he's the 4th with no real major improvement in his play. He provides sandpaper.. not much else. He could spend quite a bit of time in the box feeling shame and with the Hawks power play showing signs of life and the Nucks PK being awful... that could be trouble for the Nucks.
#41 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Jun 30, 1981
|2009 - Andrew Alberts||76||3||9||12||6||87||0||0||0||0||50||6.0|
#3 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks
Jun 16, 1981
|2009 - Kevin Bieksa||55||3||19||22||-5||85||1||0||0||0||95||3.2|
This is the pairing that has to scare Nucks fans. Kevin Bieksa saw his time on the power play drop considerably with the addition of Ehrhoff and his point total dropped from 43 to just 22 this year. Of course, he did have a serious leg injury that kept him out for a big stretch of the year. Once again, he's a player that will provide grit and physical presence but he'll hopefully be in and out of the box for a good part of the series. We learned on our podcast that Alberts has been dubbed A.H.Alberts. In four games this post-season, he's got 23 PIM.. obviously helped by a game misconduct. The Nucks will likely be hoping to see him move Buff or whoever else from the crease but they can't really trust him to do it without taking a penalty. For someone who is supposed to bring the hits - he only has 8 so far. Get the right match-up against these two and enjoy the fireworks.