Joey Kenward: It's Hammer time
Dan Hamhuis had a dream come true Tuesday as the Canucks went into Game 7 and eliminated the Blackhawks.
Every year throughout British Columbia, kids of all ages can be found playing road hockey.
And without a doubt, in almost every one of those games, an imaginary Game 7 scenario is played out, likely with an overtime period involved.
Dan Hamhuis saw that dream become a reality on Tuesday night.
“It was amazing,” says the 29 year-old who calls Smithers, B.C. home. “That’s road hockey right there growing up. Just to come out on top was a mix of excitement and relief.”
Hamhuis was busy in Game 7 against the Chiacgo Blackhawks. He had exactly 27 minutes of ice time and arguably his best defensive effort of the post season. In his first ever Game 7 experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he had team-high five blocked shots to go along with three hits and two takeaways. Those stats proved to be invaluable in a 2-1 overtime win.
“We learned all year that when we stick to our game plan, we’re a tough team to beat,” added Hamhuis following the victory. “We learned our lesson this series when we stopped doing that in Games 4 and 5. We got back to that in Games 6 and 7 and it paid off.”
Now the Canucks prepare for the Western Conference Semi Finals. And it’s a team that Hamhuis is very familiar with. He called Nashville, Tennessee home for his first six seasons in the NHL and was one of the most valuable members of the Predators defensive corps.
“It’ll be different,” comments the veteran blue liner. “I still have a lot of good friends on that team, but that will be put aside for a couple of weeks.”
Before he was playing in Music City U.S.A,, Hamhuis had an outstanding career in the Western Hockey League with the Prince George Cougars. In addition to winning WHL Player of the Year and both WHL and CHL Defenceman of the Year honours in 2002, Hamhuis represented Canada at back-to-back World Junior Championships.
Hamhuis was drafted by the Predators 12th overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and went on to appear in 483 regular season games with Nashville. He appeared in five playoff series with the Preds, so he, like his former club, is preparing for his first taste of playing beyond the opening round.
“It’s real good for us,” said head coach Alain Vigneault when asked of how important Hamhuis can be in helping to prepare for Vancouver’s next opponent. “I had a long conversation with Dan about some of their players and their tendencies. He shared a lot of that information with our players as well, which can really help.”
Hamhuis signed with the Canucks this past off-season and proceeded to put up six goals and 17 assists as well as a season-high +23 rating in 64 games. He battled through injury this season, which included a couple of concussions. Those injuries kept him on the sidelines both times the Canucks played at Bridgestone Arena. There’s no question Hamhuis will be extra motivated to play against his former team, especially when this series shifts to Nashville.
“That will be different going back there and playing on that ice,” says Hamhuis. “They’re a really good team and they’ve been playing very well. They’ve got great fans down. They’re very under rated and they’re very loud in their building. It’s going to be a tough team to play against.”