In their first time suiting up for Canada on the international stage, Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison have proven to be two of the best defenders for Canada so far at the 2014 World Championships in Belarus.
As a defensive pair, they have been utilized in all situations, including on the powerplay and on the penalty kill, as they have been a solid presence on the blue line. Their statistics look good as well. Through four games, Garrison leads the Canadian defence in points with four assists; Bieksa has one goal and one assist. As well, either both of them or one of them have led Team Canada in ice time in each of the four games, Bieksa usually playing around 23 minutes and Garrison around 21 to 24 minutes.
Canada opened up the tournament with a shaky 3-2 loss to France in a shootout, followed by three consecutive wins: a 4-1 win over Slovakia, a 4-3 win over the Czech Republic, and a 6-1 win over Denmark. For Bieksa, the team captain, the game against the Czech Republic is perhaps one he might remember the most, as he played a pivotal – yet bloody – role in the game’s turning point.
Bieksa lost a tooth and a bit of blood from a high stick by Czech player Jan Kovar in the second period of the game, which Canada was winning 2-1. After much discussion by the referees – and the constant reminders Bieksa gave them that Kovar drew blood – Kovar was given a five minute major. Nathan MacKinnon and Morgan Reilly both scored on the powerplay, Bieksa assisting on Reilly’s goal, which gave Canada a 4-1 lead. Although the Czech Republic battled back hard, scoring two more goals, the three-goal lead Kovar’s penalty and Bieksa’s lost tooth provided gave Canada what they needed to win the game.
Giving Bieksa the captaincy has been applauded by many. Bieksa has severed as an assistant captain with the Canucks and manages to keep the team atmosphere fun while still working hard and pushing his team to win.
“He keeps it fun, he likes to have a good time,” Canuck Alex Burrows, who is also playing on Team Canada, told The Canadian Press. “But at the same time when it’s time to work and do the right things, he’s the first one to lead the way.”
Garrison has also shown his ability to work hard and to execute important plays at important moments. Two of his four assists are on tying goals (against France and Slovakia) and another of his assists is on a go ahead goal for Canada (against Slovakia).
Bieksa and Garrison bring versatility, point production, dependability, leadership, and good performance in crucial moments to Team Canada, and have played an important role on the team four games into the tournament.
Canada faces Italy on May 16th, Sweden on May 18th and Norway on May 20th before the elimination rounds begin.
UPDATES ON THE REST OF THE CANUCKS IN THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS:
– Garrison is keeping a blog on the Canucks website of his experiences throughout the World Championships. The latest entry can be read here: http://canucks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=718900&navid=DL|VAN|home
– Alex Burrows, who is playing for Canada, has been fairly quiet so far. He has one assist.
– 4 games into the tournament, Canucks prospect and Swedish goaltender Joacim Eriksson has yet to play a game.
– Nicklas Jensen and Jannik Hansen, who are playing for Denmark, are having a tough tournament, with one win through four games. Jensen has one goal and one assist (his one goal being Denmark’s only goal against Canada) and Hansen has two goals, one against Norway on the powerplay and the other a shorthanded goal against Italy that put Denmark up 2-1.
– Yannick Weber, who is playing for Switzerland, has a goal and an assist, the goal coming against Belarus on the powerplay in a 4-3 loss. Switzerland is also having a tough tournament. They got their first win on the 14th against Germany after losses to Russia, the United States, and Belarus.