VANCOUVER CANADA - JANUARY 26: Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks tires to regain control of the puck while being checked by Patric Hornqvist #27 the Nashville Predators during the first period in NHL action on January 26 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver British Columbia Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
In advance of the Preds' series with the Vancouver Canucks, OtF will be taking a look at three Canucks who fly under the radar but could have a large impact on the series. First up: Kevin Bieksa.
In total, the Vancouver Canucks have the best defense in the National Hockey League. They allowed the fewest goals of any team during the regular season, and while that was due in large part to Roberto Luongo, their blueline is one of, if not the deepest in the league. Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo, and Keith Ballard headline the corps, but a crucial part is played by the perhaps underappreciated Kevin Bieksa.
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Bieksa is the most physical presence on the Canucks' back end, yet has shown an underrated ability to chip in offensively. He finished fourth on Vancouver's blueline in average time on ice, leads Canucks' skaters in TOI during the playoffs, and sees duty in all three situations.
Alex Edler is the fan favorite and Dan Hamhuis will draw our ire, but Bieksa may have the most important role to play defensively for Vancouver. He'll try and goad the Predators into taking penalties, and likely be matched, when possible, against Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher, and Sergei Kostitsyn.
Keep an eye on Bieksa going forward, because if the Preds can take advantage of his excessive physicality or convert on the PP while he's in the box, it'll go a long way to determining their success in this series.