While their teammates seemed to be desperately, but ineffectively, flailing away for much of the opening three games against the Kings, Henrik and Daniel combined for likely the most inspired effort in their careers in last night’s first playoff win.
So while Alex Edler is only working hard at keeping alive the notion that Swedes disappear come playoff time, the Sedins offered an in-your-face rebuttal last night (just ask Dustin Brown). Henrik, fresh from a Brown hit that should have sent him concussed to the sidelines along with his brother, who amazingly returned to a series that he was not supposed to play in, were both equally hearty and arty, all at the same time.
And, of course, Cory Schneider officially stamped Roberto Luongo’s passport for an early exit from Vancouver. And for those that are surprised by this development, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. Schneider started most of the big games this season and was not intimidated even slightly. His statistical results during the season placed him among the game’s elite. And Roberto, as if often the case come playoff time, was simply decent in losing efforts in games 1 and 2. The bigger story really should be that Schneider didn’t start these playoffs with the veteran Luongo waiting in the wings should he falter.
With the Sedins reunited and Schneider sparkling, you might think that the Canucks have a chance to run the table against the upstart Kings. But they need more from others for that to happen.
Speaking of, the search party continues for Ryan Kesler. Seriously, at what point do we simply admit that he’s lost a step and will never be the same? More pointedly, Kesler was never a player with great ice vision nor strong playmaking skills. His success was owing to his determination, speed and (last year anyway) world class shot. The determination is still there - if you count diving, embellishing, and screening the goalie, but the lack of production seems to be attributable to the fact he simply isn’t getting the time to unload his shot - no doubt a function of declining acceleration. This doesn’t mean he can’t contribute significantly off the scoresheet, but it highlights the bizarre decision to give away Cody Hodgson when the team is having real trouble generating decent scoring chances.
Which leads us to Jonathan Quick, the supposed hero of this series. But really, while he is playing well, the Canucks have made him look better than that. Peppering an elite NHL keeper with shots from never-never land is a strategy that will send the Canucks packing (and almost has).
One of the Canucks’ specific objectives heading into this season was the development of a fourth line that could be trusted to play come playoff time. And early in the season, it looked like they had found the right combination with Maxim Lapierre centering Dale Weise and Aaron Volpatti. Now, the fourth line features Lapierre with the one-trick pony Manny Malhotra and Zack Kassian (remember him, the goods received for the burgeoning Hodgson). That line was simply embarrassing last night, which is why they were stapled to the bench for most of the game (and the games before that).
Why Hodgson was dealt at the deadline instead of Mason Raymond continues to be a serious Canuck conundrum. It was the peripheral Raymond wearing the goat horns with the drive-by back-check on the Kings opening goal though it was another lazy Alex Edler pinch that started the play.
As a back-to-back President’s Trophy winner (and one that is mostly healthy once again) the Canucks are a decent bet to become one of the few teams to overcome a 3-0 series deficit. But against the stingy Kings, they’ll need results from more than the red-haired trio that carried them to victory last night.