The Vancouver Canucks gritted out a tough road win against the Dallas Stars Thursday to end a three game win-less streak. Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa scored his fifth goal of the young season in the win. It was a big win for Vancouver as those three straight losses were starting to get people to go from no worries to a low rumbling about what was wrong with the club. For Bieksa, it was his second big goal in as many games and while he is off to a great offensive start, he has struggled in his own end.
In other words, Bieksa is giving as much as he’s taking.
Bieksa is on a goal pace to break his career best of 12 he picked up in the 2005-2006 season, also his rookie year. He picked up a late game tying goal in Chicago on Tuesday and tied the game on Wednesday with this nice backhanded, one-hander – his fifth in eight games.
Bieksa is no slouch when it comes to contributing to the offense. While he’ll never be an offense first defenseman he has always chipped in and has scored some big goals for the Canucks over the years. He is on fire right now, and has shown a knack to score big goals this year. While the goals are great it is safe to say that he has had some struggles in his own end to start the year.
He has had more lapses on defense than we are used to seeing out of the normally solid blue liner. Perhaps one of his worst plays was the weak waive of his stick he offered against the Blackhawks as Marian Hossa took the puck right in front of the Canucks goal for Chicago’s third goal on Tuesday.
He had another questionable play on his first shift against Dallas as he lamely sprawled on the ice as Jamie Benn easily maneuvered around him to score the game’s first game.
While there has been a lot of finger pointing in his direction he is not costing them games. Bieksa, and the rest of the defense, struggled against the Blackhawks but he also helped get the game into overtime – picking up a valuable point in the process. Alain Vigneault reunited Bieksa with Dan Hamhuis for the game against Dallas in hopes to rekindle the solid work those two have put in the past. There were mixed results in the first game, but the two did hook up for Bieksa’s goal as Hamhuis made a pin point pass to spring Bieksa free. It seems reasonable they will learn to play defense well together again in no time.
Bieksa is no rookie wilting under the pressure of the NHL. He will figure out whatever is wrong in his own end and become the solid two-way player Canucks fans have come to love. Right now, he is providing some much needed scoring from the back end and with the goal tending that Vancouver is getting they can weather some inconsistent play from Bieksa for now.
Despite his troubles he is still a positive plus/minus on the year, but it does appear that he’s giving up more chances overall than he’ a part of. His track record indicates that this trend can and will reverse. The Canucks lack top end scoring, other than their top line, and for now are going to have to win games with tight defense and excellent goaltending. It’s worked before and is working now. Thursday night in Dallas they picked up three goals from the blue line, something that will continue to be important moving forward.
Kevin Bieksa has five goals already this year and if he continues his pace for a career like offensive season the Canucks can live with a defensive lapse now and again.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.