VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Timing is everything, and for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, the timing of his double-overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night couldn't have been better.
While other players might have spent the time basking of in the glory of being an overtime hero, Bieksa said he's been working harder away from the rink the last couple days.
"It's been terrible actually, I'm in the middle of a move, I've been taking loads up and down the elevator – it's been terrible," he said Thursday. "It's been busier actually. It's a good thing we didn't go on the road (for Game 6) so I could stay home and help pack and move.
"It's been nothing special over here, trust me."
Many thought Bieksa would be moving last summer after GM Mike Gillis went out and acquired defensemen Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. The Canucks were stretching the limits of the salary cap, and a trade on the blue line to create cap space seemed inevitable.
Bieksa, who lacked a no-trade clause and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was believed to be the odd man out. However, a freak accident to Sami Salo on July 22, 2010, turned into exactly the cap relief needed to keep Bieksa around. Salo missed most of the season with an Achilles tendon injury, keeping him off the cap and freeing up room for Bieksa.
"It's something that I've addressed a lot of times," Bieksa said of the trade talk. "I didn't pay a lot of attention to those rumors in the summer, and expected to be here.
"Here I am today, so who cares about the rumors."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who has known Bieksa since the 2005-06 season when he coached Vancouver's American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba, says the former fifth-round selection (No. 151 in 2001) has come a long way.
"This is the sixth year I've had him, he's always been a good player, a very good player, that has a lot of confidence in his abilities," he said. "Unfortunately throughout some of the seasons, he's had some injuries and some series injuries that have taken him out of the lineup. Sometimes that takes a while to get back to form."
Bieksa missed 47 games during the 2007-08 season after suffering a calf laceration during a November game against the Nashville Predators. Two games into the 2008-09 season he suffered a knee injury while trying to hit Wayne Primeau of the Calgary Flames. The following month he missed seven games after fracturing a bone in his left foot.
Bieksa suffered another serious laceration last season when the skate of Petr Prucha cut him during a December game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Nearly a week after, it was revealed he had severed tendons in his ankle as a result of the collision, and Bieksa ended up missing 27 games.
"This year he came to camp with great conditioning, really strong attitude, really focused," Vigneault said. "From Day 1, he's just played, and played real well."
Bieksa collected 6 goals, 22 points and a plus-32 rating while playing in just 66 games this season due to a fractured bone in his foot he sustained while blocking a shot during a February game against the Minnesota Wild.
The man known as "Juice" to his teammates, has taken his game to another level in these playoffs scoring 5 goals and adding 4 assists for 9 points along with a plus-10 rating.
"I expected (the shutdown) part from Kevin," Vigneault said. "Obviously the way he played in the last series, and the goals that he got were pretty incredible – that's what enabled us to move on to the next round."
Bieksa said his 3-year-old son Cole was one of the few who was certain of who scored the overtime winner on Tuesday that sent the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.
"He's been at most of the games all season long, he didn't make that one, he wasn't feeling too good, but apparently he was watching it at home with our nanny," Bieksa said. "Obviously nobody knew what happened at first, but he was one of the first people who saw and said ‘that was my dad, he's the one that scored' and my nanny was like ‘uhh.. I don' think so'. He was like ‘yeah, yeah it was number 3 – I saw'."
Bieksa said he's received numerous texts and phone calls since the goal, but the most significant one was from his grandparents back home in Grimsby, Ont.
"They stay up till 1 or 2 in the morning to watch the games – very passionate fans. Maybe don't understand everything about the games, but that was probably the first message I got congratulating me, wishing me good luck, and then ‘don't hurt yourself Kevin, be careful, I love you.'"
"That was the first, and most important message I probably got."
Bieksa's phone will be blowing up once again if he, and his teammates, can win four more games to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.
— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp