Another Day, Another D-Man
VANCOUVER--It's turning into the blueline shuffle for the Vancouver Canucks.
For Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Dan Hamhuis was in, but left partway through the game with some kind of undisclosed injury after unpending Milan Lucic with a hip check.
For Game 2, Andrew Alberts got the call ahead of both Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev. In Game 3, Aaron Rome dealt a vicious head shot to Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins and was suspended for the rest of the series.
That brought in Keith Ballard, who may make $4.2 million per season but wasn't up to the challenge of doing much except fighting Brad Marchand to a draw in the dying, pointless minutes.
For Game 5 tonight, Ballard is out, and rookie Chris Tanev is in. No time to protect feelings, I guess,, but wow, this series has to have a blow to a proud veteran like Ballard, who was acquired last summer from Florida for Michael Grabner (now a Calder Trophy finalist) and a first round pick.
Tanev is a remarkable story, a 21-year-old who was playing for the Tier Two Markham Waxers just two years ago and, after a year at the Rochester Institute of Technology - the same program from which the Leafs forward Tyler Brenner as a free agent recently - has arrived in pro hockey and tonight goes into the fray of the Stanley Cup final.
He's got 29 games of regular season experience and two playoff games under his belt, both against San Jose. He played 9:13 in the first one but then 20:42 in the second, suggesting Alain Vigneault has confidence in the youngster if he senses he needs him.
"When we've used Chris this year he's real steady, can make a first pass at the forecheck," said Vigneault this morning. The Vancouver head coach also said that Hamhuis would be making the trip to Boston for Game 6, raising the possibility he might be ready to return by Monday.
So five games into the Cup final and the Canucks are already dressing the No. 9 defenceman on their roster. This is what Mike Gillis built the depth on the back end for, but it still increasing the pressure on Vancouver's top four - Alex Edler, Christian Erhoff, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo - a little more every game.