VANCOUVER, BC -- The old cliché read as, ‘take the hit to make the play’. Dennis Wideman knows all too well.
The Calgary Flames defenceman knows the hits are coming and understands that, more often then not, it’s his responsibility to absorb them to make the proper play, so the 32-year-old blueliner isn’t about to shy away from the physicality he expects out of Vancouver Canucks forwards in advance of Game 2 on Friday (8 p.m. MT, CBC, SN960).
“I think it comes with the game,” said Wideman, who was a target for much of the game-high 30:03 he skated in Calgary’s 2-1 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Rogers Arena on Wednesday. “There are times when you can get out of the way when a guy is coming at you, but there’s a lot of times that you’re going to have to take hits to make plays. If you start bowing out of those, then you are in your zone for a long time. It’s a part of playoffs and it’s the way it is.”
Wideman, alongside Kris Russell, have inherited the role of Calgary’s top duo after the Flames lost captain Mark Giordano to a torn biceps muscle in late February.
The twosome has routinely logged the most minutes of any pairing on the back end.
Since Giordano’s departure from the lineup and including Game 1 on Wednesday, Wideman has eclipsed the 25-minute plateau in 17 of 21 games played. Not far behind, Russell hit the same mark in 15 of 21 games played.
They have, and will continue to, draw plenty of attention from opposing forwards barging into Calgary’s zone.
“They had some high minutes last night and I think we got to make them work every time, every minute they are out there,” Canucks forward Chris Higgins said. “If they have 30 easy minutes then it’s not going to be a problem but if we are making them go back for soft chips and getting hit all night and make it difficult on them then maybe in Games 5, 6 or 7 that will start to add up a little bit.”
Quick sticks and faster feet are Russell’s answer to avoiding the thumps.
“You’ve got to do your best to get to pucks as quick as you can and make quick decisions with the puck,” said Russell, who logged over 29 minutes in Game 1 and scored the game-winner with 29.6 seconds remaining in regulation. That’s part of the game. It’s playoff hockey, it’s a seven-game series and you’re trying to wear the other team out. It’s just part of the game and we’ve got to be ready.
“I think it’s just that in any playoff series, the forwards are going to target the defenseman and the defenseman are going to target the forwards. It’s just the way it is. We are going to have to play some tough minutes and it’s going to be physical, so we don’t expect anything different.
“Its just part of the game. We grew up learning to play with it and that’s what makes it fun.”
True, the Flames aren’t going to cry foul. It’s a two-way street.
And all’s fair when it comes to the Stanley Cup.
“That’s playoffs,” coach Bob Hartley said. “I’m not going to start whining about them taking runs at us. We’re taking runs at them. You look at every playoff game -- it’s war. We’re not here to make friends, and they’re not there to make friends. I don’t expect to spend time with any of the Canucks players at the Stampede this summer.”
With 45 games of playoff experience under his belt, the third most on Calgary’s roster behind Jiri Hudler (67) and Mason Raymond (55), Wideman understands its part of the playoff process.
The veteran admitted it's not a surprisingly game plan from the opposition.
“I think that anytime you go into a playoff series, teams are trying to key in on players,” Wideman said. “I don’t think it’s just me and Russell. I think it’s all of our defence and all of their defence. It’s a long series and you’re trying to get in on the fore check and finish the defence as much as possible.
“I don’t think it’s anything different.”