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Getting offense from 'D' is key ingredient for Canucks

by Dhiren Mahiban /
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- When it comes to containing the Vancouver Canucks' offense, worrying about the Presidents’ Trophy winners' defense could be just as important as keeping an eye on the likes of the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.

The Canucks have gotten contribution from their blueliners in all but four games in these playoffs and are 8-2 when they get some offense from the defense.

Christian Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Edler have led the offensive charge from the back end, chipping in 6 goals and 21 points through the first 14 games of these playoffs.

The Canucks agree that getting contribution from their defense is a key ingredient for their success.

"It's very Important, I think for us it takes a lot of heat off of the forwards and when they're shooting the puck well, getting shots on net – it opens up things for us down low," Kesler said. "Even if they aren’t scoring or producing, they’re opening things up for us if they’re getting shots through."

According to Edler, there’s an art to joining the rush.

"You got to be able to see when there's a chance to jump up and when it’s time to stay back," he said. "Our game plan is when we have room we can try to make plays, but when there’s a tight gap we’ll try to get it deep and we’ll get our fore check going."

GM Mike Gillis made a conscious effort during the off-season to bolster his team's blue line adding the likes of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard into the mix.

Hamhuis, a dependable defensive defenseman, even chipped in on the offense picking up 17 assists and 23 points during the regular season to go along with his plus-29 rating. The Smithers, B.C., native has added a pair of assists and is plus-4 in the playoffs.

"I don't think in today's NHL that you can have a good offensive team if you don't have a good back end," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "What I mean by that is, your (defensemen) have to be able to beat the forecheck, they have to be able to make some tape-to-tape passes and they have  to be able to jump up in the attack when the opportunity is there. For that, you need obviously hockey sense and you need skill.

"I think our back end right now is the best it's ever been."

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night, Bieksa tied things at 2-2 with his second goal of the playoffs. Dany Heatley took an elbowing penalty 32 seconds later, and Ehrhoff set up Henrik Sedin for the game-winner on the power play.

"It's very important. Offense from our defense has been a big part of our team's success all year," Bieksa said. "We have six guys that can do it pretty regularly.

"It's just a matter of reading when the right time is."

According to Daniel Sedin, the Canucks don't have the league’s top defenseman, but together; they’re a formidable group.

"I think we have the best D group in the league," he said. "We might not have the top, top defensemen, but we have six, seven or eight guys that would be in the top four on any other team.

"I like it that way. I'd rather have it that way than have one top defensemen and four or five guys who might be bottom defensemen. I like our set up."
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