Go by the numbers and you can make the case that Kevin Bieksa is the Canucks’ most important player.

Pretty simple, right? They were 23-8-4 with him in the lineup this season, and 3-7-3 without.

Yes, well, numbers lie.

That’s not to say Bieksa isn’t going to be a key to this entire series. He’s a right-handed shot and the Canucks have precious few on their blue-line. To start the playoffs, it’s just Bieksa and Frank Corrado representing the righties on the depth chart.

Lose Bieksa, and this team’s balance is thrown off like it was overcome with vertigo.

But this isn’t 2011 and the Canucks are actually far less reliant on Bieksa. This is a good thing and has been part of a long-term plan.

Bieksa averaged nearly 26 minutes a game during the 2011 postseason run, on a shutdown pairing with Dan Hamhuis.

Since then, the team has concluded that Bieksa’s engine is best when governed.

Management believes he’s more effective playing closer to 22 minutes a game than 26.

It’s not unlike what happened in San Jose, where the Sharks have got Dan Boyle’s average ice time below 23 minutes for the first time in eight years.

It was a struggle last year to get Bieksa’s minutes down, in part because Sami Salo was notorious for taking short shifts.

But this season, as Jason Garrison and Hamhuis have developed into the Canucks’ best defensive pairing, it has given the Canucks options, and allowed them to get Bieksa’s ice time into that wheelhouse they had pegged.

This year, Bieksa averaged 21:56 in ice time. Only once in seven seasons did he average less, and that was 21:50 per game in 2009-10.

Fewer minutes should mean better minutes for Bieksa, and watching where he ends up every game this series will be fascinating.