Down 2-1 seven minutes into the middle frame of a late February game in Dallas, the Vancouver Canucks turn to an offensive juggernaut to tie the game. He accepts a lead pass from Dan Hamhuis at full speed, crosses centre ice and turns Stars defenseman Philip Larsen into a flailing, bellyflopping pylon.
Look! There he is fending off Larsen’s desperate poke check with the knee of a 70-goal scorer. There he goes, leaning into his attack on the net with the enthusiasm of Shane O’Brien ordering another round at the Roxy. And as he slips a cheeky backhander underneath Christopher Nilstorp — the pride of Malmo, Sweden — hockey fans around the Western Conference rejoice that life has been breathed into a Dallas Stars game. This man is resuscitating the position of power forward, surely!
Who is this offensive marvel with goals in consecutive games, with ice in his veins and a fire in his belly? Is it Zack Kassian, getting a long-awaited 6th goal after eight games of diminishing returns? Is it Ryan Kesler, continuing his upward trend since returning from injury? Or perhaps David Booth, finally making up for off-season exploits that sickened civilized Twitter users the world over?
Nope. Meet Kevin Bieksa. Power forward.
The Canucks won the game 4-3, thanks in large part to Juice’s stunning foray into the offensive zone. Nilstorp called it a bad goal in his post-game scrum, and I’ve heard it said that any puck that goes through the five-hole is the goalie’s fault. That said, Bieksa took this rush out of the Bobby Orr playbook. I’d be shocked to hear even one commentator give the ol’ “that’s a goal Nilsy would like to have back” routine.
Also prominent this game were Alex Burrows — his two brilliant screens late in the Chicago game were followed up by a tip-in and a give-and-go with Henrik — and Jason Garrison, who played his best game as a Canuck in the win. Just like the previous game in Chicago, I wasn’t a fan of two of the goals Schneider let in, but he made some big, big stops when Dallas pushed. Still, if Luongo had allowed that 2-1 goal by Brendan Morrow, the Twitterverse would be calling for his head.
Speaking of goalies, what in blue blazes is with opposing teams throwing third-string goalies at Vancouver. Even more troubling, why the hell are the Canucks having so much difficulty beating them? Leland Irving is the only dude they’ve been able to embarrass of late. Other than that, Vancouver has struggled to stay in games against Ray Emery in Chicago, Jake Allen with St Louis, and Darcy Kuemper for Minnesota in his first NHL game. Tonight, they hang on for a squeaker against Christopher Nilstorp, seriously? If this team is going to hang its hat on the fact that they have two All-Star calibre goaltenders, they need to start lighting up the fodder in the other crease.