Everyone here knows what happened in round two.
I expect everyone here also knows why it happened: the Nashville Predators thought they needed to shut down Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and then hope the other lines would even up, letting Pekka Rinne steal the series from an uncertain Luongo. It didn't work out that way, as there was only so long the brilliant shut down pair of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter could be on the ice; and they learned to their regret that not only is Vancouver not a one-line team, but unless you have a player dangerous enough to pull Ryan Kesler's attention, he's going to hurt your team very, very badly.So there was talk about who the "real" captain of the Canucks was. After all, Kesler's combination of emotion and skill was what powered them past Nashville, right? He proved himself to be the heart of a team that needed to simply dig in and drive to get through a team that has the tenacity of gum under a grade school desk.
Even better, in the first round he played the shadow role, holding the tremendously skilled Jonathan Toews to a single goal (and four points - did I mention skilled?) in seven vital games. He placed his own scoring aside to focus on shutting down the most dangerous man on the ice, knowing the team strategy of playing depth-for-depth against the Chicago Blackhawks was a winning one.
A proponent of his captaincy could even go further back and point to his well-rounded game, shown by pretty much any regular season stat you'd care to look at: Blocks? Most among Vancouver forwards. Hits? Fourth on the team, after three guys who were hired for their forechecking. Defensive play? He's trusted enough to get three short handed markers this year, what's that tell you? All with a quite reasonable (for how - and how much - he plays) sixty-six minutes in penalties.
I will propose that Henrik Sedin was chosen to wear the C not for his scoring prowess, or as a lure to get him signed on a long-term deal for less money, but for another reason entirely. Yes, he's brilliant with a pass, and can score some lovely goals (no, really!) and has worked hard to improve his own defensive game and face-off ability, so he can now be trusted late in the game behind his own blue line. But there's more to it than that.
The reason he was named captain on October ninth 2010 was for Game Two against the San Jose Sharks.
I'm a believer in a captain setting the tone for a team; and as I'm sure most folks here can recall, both Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows were told to tone down their post-whistle yapping and involvement in scrums this season. That they did has been a benefit to the team all year long and that's followed into the playoffs. But the rest of the team has followed suit: they were 18th in the league in penalty minutes this season after being fifth the year before, third the year before that, and second the year before that.
And the reduction in penalties isn't all coming from two players calming down. It's coming from everyone on the team seeing the abuse that a top centre gets in this league (especially one with a reputation for being "soft") who simply shrugs it off... then makes the opponents pay on the scoreboard. It's a revenge that tastes so much sweeter and lasts so much longer than a quick slash or an post-whistle face full of glove. It's revenge that works, and everyone has noticed, and plays accordingly.
That calm the Canucks have played with all year showed in this one game, where a stupid player put his team behind the eight ball because he couldn't control himself, and everyone else in that room is going to be wondering if he's going to help them or hurt them every time he steps on the ice.
Vancouver didn't need extra emotion on the ice this season; the Canucks didn't need to get pumped up for big games (or even for little ones) this year. That wasn't a weakness this team has ever had: not with these fans, and not in this city. The emotion has always been there, and to get to the next level they needed to be led by their brains, not their heart.
So far, it's worked.