"It’s like one knows what the other is doing."
(Photo by Getty Images)
Henrik Sedin, hero. A dozen points in 5 games, setting a team record. Not just leading the league in points, but indeed having more assists than anyone else has points. Henrik Sedin, is ‘hero’ really enough?
Remember when Henrik was being labelled a goat? That when the sledding got tough, he and his brother lived down to their detractors’ favoured epithet: ‘the sisters’? It comes down to perception, and what value we believe players bring to the table. If we use baseball as an analogy, the frenetic energy of Ryan Kesler is best labelled as a leadoff threat in the style of Rickey Henderson, while the Sedins are the methodical, underappreciated but totally dominant professional slugger, in the vein of Frank Thomas. Fans notice Kesler because his moments come in bursts of energy; the Twins are so clinical, so consistent and so relentless that, unless you are really watching carefully, it’s rarely recognized just what it is they are doing. Their influence on the ice goes beyond just scoring goals – every shift of theirs tends to be a shift where the opposing team doesn’t spend anytime in the Canucks’ end. Put a top end line against them and the other team might slow them down, but then these opponents have probably doomed their top threats to a pittance of chances per game. The alternative, playing lower end checkers against them is ever more dangerous- yes they opposing top players are now freed up to find chances and time in the Canucks’ zone but the weaker defenders mean that Daniel and Henrik will put on a clinic.
There’s no arguing that against Nashville, Henrik and Daniel were not at their best; but were they actually at their worst? Scott Reynolds at Copper and Blue has been putting his head in front of his heart and making the ultimate sacrifice of his Oilers-loyalty: he’s been tracking scoring chances for the Canucks throughout the playoffs. Looking at the Predators v Canucks series, we see that, at even strength, Henrik and Daniel produced plenty of scoring chances (32 and 34, respectively) and in turn, yielding little in their own end (12 and 11). Despite this offensive pressure, Henrik recorded points in only two games (1g, 3 a, with the goal being an empty netter) and Daniel points in three (1g, 2a). Just about everyone has probably figured out the discrepancy between production and pressure – a combination of Pekka Rinne in goal and the Weber-Suter defensive combo.
It’s also worth comparing the Nashville series with the very challenging Chicago series. The narrative at the end of the seven games with the Hawks was Henrik looked hurt but battled and Daniel worked very, very hard against tough opposition and bagged 5 goals. They weren’t outstanding, but they were good enough to overcome a tenacious and very talented team. Most of Chicago’s defensive attention came from Duncan Keith and partner (mostly Brent Seabrook), and it was recognized as a significant contributor to the Sedins somewhat depressed performance. The even strength numbers, over 7 games, are Daniel 38 chances for vs 24 against and Henrik on 37 vs 27. Daniel found a way to overcome Corey Crawford 5 times (as well as 2 assists), while Henrik didn’t bag a goal but did collect 5 assists. Similar influence in pressure to the Nashville series, but better results.
Now, unfortunately Reynolds hasn’t yet posted his game 2 tallies, but he has posted tallies for games 1, 3, 4 and 5. Daniel and Henrik, as suspected were just as dominant at even strength as the previous two series: 27 chances for and 15 against for Daniel, 27 to 18 for Henrik. The difference is public perception, as has been noted, is focused almost entirely on the results. Score and you are working hard; don’t score, it doesn’t matter how hard you are trying. The Sedins found a way to beat Antti Niemi and the Sharks defence in ways that they didn’t against Chicago and especially Nashville. For many fans, the only measure of player performance seems to be goals and assists. From this perspective, the Sedins were average to below average vs Chicago (even with Daniel’s 5 goals), crap vs Nashville, and truly astounding vs San Jose. The goalie really was the story in each series – Corey Crawford basically stood on his head to keep things close for the Hawks, in fact so close that they were able to extend the series to 7 games; Pekka Rinne showed us why he should be considered as the best in the world at the moment; Antti Niemi confirmed what many suspected, even after his Stanley Cup win last year, that he’s a good goalie but totally dependent on the greatness of the team in front of him.
Going into the final round, we know this: Daniel and Henrik will continue to dominate play, to create chances at a rate which confirms their status as elite players and to, more than likely, be talked about only in reference to their results. Results are important, especially at this stage, where everything is on the line, but no one should doubt their effort or their desire. Players don’t dominate other teams the way the Sedins do without trying. They may not move about as if they were nuclear powered, but they are powered like none other. The narrative must be Thomas v Sedin, not Sedin v hustle or Sedin v effort. Folks, let’s learn to appreciate just how incredible the Sedins are, not just for their ability to score, but for their ability to make space, to control the play, to make players around them better and to just out and out want to win.
Patrick Johnston lives in Vancouver, bleeds Canucks blue and green (or is it yellow and red..or salmon…or…), and is pretty sure his 14 year old self could’ve done a better job than Rick Ley. You can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/risingaction