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Big Wins, Ageless Wonders, and Testing The Depths

Wins against the Hawks, do they still have that bit of extra "juice"? Thank you once again Brian Burke. Daniel Sedin rose to 5th in the NHL scoring race, got his 900th point ( and 901, 902, and 903. One hat guys ? Did you get confused because Henrik scored as well ? ) . and Henrik Sedin had five points. The best players out of the 1999 draft, just like Burkey said they were, are still some of the best in the entire league. They can't do it all by themselves though.

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

But before we get to all of that, a snapshot of the NHL, currently gazing hard into our collective navels as we "worry about the lack of scoring in the NHL".  Now, I agree that goaltenders look like Michelin Men, and that the players and coaching are better than ever before at the defensive game.

I am not a fan of making the nets bigger, but I get the sentiment.  Look at Saturday's games.  There were eleven of them.  Of those, there were five shutouts, where a combined 18 goals were scored.  That is still not bad for scoring, is it ?  Sure, five goalies bageled NHL teams, and that seems a lot in one night, but there were still just under five goals a game in those games.

The other six games ?  Some of the more entertaining games of the night.  The Canuck big win featured a combined nine goals.  The Rangers and Panthers combined for the same ( 5-4 in O/T for NY ) , and the Capitals and Avalanche combined for ten ( 7-3 for the Caps ) With the Blues and Wings ending in a 4-3 O/T win for Detroit, the only score of the night that was at the same level as the average shutout scoring was the Jets 3-2 win over the Coyotes.

That seems like some pretty entertaining and exciting hockey, with plenty of scoring.  I get averages and small samples, and this is only a snapshot.  Those scores look pretty good, but an argument can be made for both sides.  Sometimes, just like a pitcher's duel in baseball, there can be a "goalie's duel".  Rask and Reimer had one tonight.  The majority of games were scoring above the "league average" on that day, well above.

So, there's that.  I know. One day.  Still, food for thought. Looking at that link, scoring is down.  You just would not have noticed last Saturday...

Big Wins

Did the Canuck 6-3 win over the Cup Champs propel them forward ?  The thing is about "big wins" is that they usually include an emotional element.  That game was big because of the bad road trip, and the fact that the home team wanted to win a game in the third for a change.  Or just win in the third, period.  Because the Sedins are magical players, and because they combined for four goals and nine points, they were able to do just that.

Is there still some residual feelings of positivity?  Hard to say.  The Canucks were able to play decently, but not able to win against their old goalie, as Schneider made the difference.  In a tight Pacific division, going on a streak would counteract the recent road woes, but they could not get it done against the improved Devils.   With the Wild and Stars first up on the next road trip ( a four gamer that includes the Ducks and Kings ) before the Canucks host the Stars and Bruins, it is about to get, as the kids say, real.  So let's hope that they go on a better road than the one they just finished.  Otherwise any good feeling of beating the Cup Champs gets chalked up to "the Canucks always play well against the Hawks...but...", and we have to listen to Tanvir from Surrey tell us what Jim Benning should do instead.

Ageless Wonders

The Sedin Twins laugh at your doubts.  Well, actually, they probably give it very little thought, and would probably find some way of agreeing with you and using those doubts as motivation.  Long time fans will remember that the Twins were not always revered here, and that there was a ( steadily dwindling now ) segment of the fanbase that called them "sisters" .  But that was long ago.  Even when they were thinking about "the hell with these assholes, let's go back to Sweden" way back when, guys like Linden were able to help them through the lousy times. We are thankful he did.

They way both continue to produce is amazing.  As singular hockey players in the NHL, they deserve whatever praise they get as individuals.  Rarely has there been twins as successful as these two have been, in any sport.  Twins are, of course, closer than normal siblings, but the Sedin Magic is more a product of playing together from the time they first learned to skate.  Even with your very best friend, when you played, he got put on another line, right ?  Maybe was a bit better, and made the rep team that you did not ?  No doubt that happened with these two as well, when coaches experimented with breaking them up, like numerous Canuck coaches have done here.   Like you and your best friend, all the off ice hockey ( the times you played the game for fun on ponds and such, instead of at the arena ), these two played together.  And, the fact that they are twins and have the simpatico that twins have.

So, yeah, the Sedin Twins have chemistry.  Maybe the best chemistry to ever play the game ( interesting topic, that, Shutt, Lemaire and Lafleur, for instance, might be my pick for best chemistry, non twin division ).  For me, the marvelous thing is how consistent they are.  For the last eleven years or so, they have averaged about .90 points a game.  Some years they were over a point a game, and in the beginning of their careers, obviously lower, but Daniel has 904 points in 1,083 games, and Henrik has 936 in 1114 games.

That is pretty amazing.  Enjoy them folks.  They will play out the contracts ( and I would guess, pending how well they are still playing, that identical 1 year deals as long as they want would be on the table ), and with the news that they are not doing the "move back to Sweden" thing anymore, the now native Vancouverites could be enticed to play a bit more. Of course, the Hollywood ending is that final year is a Cup winning one.  We can dream, right ?

Testing The Depths

With the news that an abdominal injury shut down Brandon Sutter, the Canucks turned to their sophomore centre to step up, and their rookie centre to do the same.  That kind of pressure is exactly why Sutter was brought in, ( to prevent it on the young guys ) and the loss of his steady two way game and offense is not to be underestimated.  McCann has done OK, but he is a rookie, and is going to get caught out in those situations, especially on the road.  Bo seems to be going through the "sophomore slump" as far as production goes, but is still playing hard.  He'll need more production if he has to be counted on as the Top Six centre, but the way he is playing, you have to think it will come soon.

By the way, the sophomore slump is real, but it is not really a "slump", per se.  Rather, when a player is a rookie, they just play hard, trying to keep on the ice.  The production that comes of that is sometimes going to be because other teams, and goalies, don't have a "book" on the new guy.  Don't get me wrong.  Of course, they have talent, or they would not have gotten the chance to be a rookie in the best league in the world.  But that league is going to learn about you, and by that second year, you are now a guy some coach spent time on telling his team how to stop you, specifically.  Because some video coach broke down your entire catalogue of games.  Welcome to the big leagues !

Bo is also the kind of player who will put the pressure on himself, and the entire bunch of rookies seem to have that drive to get better.  Jared McCann is reputed to be another Kesler in that regard, for instance.  But now that Ben Hutton is hurt, Andrey Pedan is getting called up.  Biega has ( pretty well, considering ) played in the NHL this year, as have Gaunce and Grenier.  Injuries are a part of hockey, so there is always going to be someone out, more often than not.  And the experience some of those names who were not on the NHL roster at the beginning of the year will be valuable later on.  But is also means that here in one of the more passionate, unforgiving markets in Canada, that the "youth movement" is in full swing, and the rejuvenation of the roster is going to mean that sometimes we are talking more about effort than results.

Depth comes in many forms.  One thing that the last road trip showed us is the value of Luca Sbisa, for instance.  His physical play is certainly welcome back in the lineup.  Chris Higgins getting back was a good thing too, but now the coaches have to juggle kids and vets in and out while trying to win up front, and depend on younger and less experienced defensemen at the back.  They are not all going to turn out like Ben Hutton.  His presence solidifies the back end, and makes the pairings work.  Up front, it is more a question of so many guys in and out that Willie has not kept any line not consisting of Twins and Great Danes together, because he can't.  The Twins have done their part, and Jannik Hansen has been excellent in his current spell on the first line.  That aside, let's hope the rest of the guys had enough time in practice recently to figure it out.

It is a long season, and while this current valley makes it tough to see the heights right now, I still think that this team can get into the second season this year.  Hell, they are still not that far from first in the Pacific right now.  Although that Central Division might just take all the non division winning spots this year.  The Beasts of the Midwest.

The Wild, then the Stars, then the Ducks and Kings, before hosting the Stars and then the Bruins in early December is a pretty stern test.  Hopefully I am not writing soon about who we want to pick wit that Top Ten pick soon !