“We're streaking through the quad!”
Okay, so he isn't streaking through the quad, but he's streaking through just about everywhere else. Henrik Sedin is the subject of all sorts of praise in the west and even someone in Toronto noticed and named him NHL Player of the month. Now that's not breaking news, but The Sedin's have been so consistent for the last few years, most expected the plateau effect at this stage. Very good stars, but not superstars are an appropriate label up to this year for both Swedes. It is also the first year we can't refer to their stats together because of Daniel's injury earlier in the year. So down goes Dan and the lone twin with the supposed lack of finish remains and we expect very little. Having now past the midseason point in the league, how many would have expected Henrik to be leading the league in points, having just scored his 20th goal and on pace for over 100 points? It probably hadn't occurred to anyone up until now. It's a testament to how seriously Henrik takes his role as an Assistant Captain and a leader on and off the ice. To elaborate the point, Henrik has been pivotal in carrying the Canucks to, most recently, 7 of a possible 8 points on the last road trip. The road record was the trouble spot so far and it's an area that we would expect to get better because Roberto Luongo would shut the door and make it better and that's true, he did. However, while Roberto was improving his numbers and playing very well, Henrik Sedin was the catalyst. He is the team’s MVP to this point without argument, and you wouldn't be wrong to consider him for MVP of the league either. With all of the injuries to this team, I would be hard pressed to name anyone more meaningful to their teams climb into the playoff picture than Henrik. Alex Burrows got a hat trick yesterday in the 7-3 clobbering of the Blue Jackets, but the story was still Henrik piling up points and the line as a whole is just picking up the pace now to match Henrik.
So now we get to see if the success continues in a drive towards the playoffs. The second half the season is known for the trade deadline and playoff seeding more than anything, and we will intently watch both. From a Canuck standpoint, it's just the start of the dogfight. Despite the success of late, the Orca's are just barely in the playoff picture, which is the curse of playing in the western conference. It's nice to see Detroit out of the bracket, but they will be contenders when I'm long dead. Phoenix, Anaheim, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville are the teams to beat at this point. The other teams seem to be the ones that are definitely in or definitely out. In the last few weeks we have seen a bit of separation, with Edmonton, St. Louis and Columbus seemingly ready to try and replace Mr. Woods on the PGA Tour. The team that seems the most dangerous out of the 5 I believe to be main contenders with the Nucks is Phoenix. Oddly enough, their suddenly veteran squad is playing inspirational hockey and even drawing a few more fans lately. It's a Dave Tippett team now that seems to understand their system much better than they did under Wayne Gretzky. Or maybe it's just that they actually have a system now and players experienced enough to execute it.
Coincidentally, Phoenix is the team Vancouver faces next and it will be another tough game. The last game against Phoenix wasn't too long ago, on the last road trip, where the Canucks faced Jason LaBarbera and lost in the shootout to their old backup. This time they face an even tougher goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov and will have to better. Despite a point in the previous meeting, the effort level was only about 60 percent of what it should have been. In yesterday's game against Columbus, where the visiting Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 lead, you could tell by the jump in the Vancouver legs and the way those goals were scored that it was far from finished. That same jump will be required against a very disciplined Coyote pack. At this point it's about being more focused and more disciplined than the opponent and as good a team as the Coyotes have been, they are not as well rounded a roster as Vancouver. Let's hope they can prove it.
Phoenix Coyotes @ Vancouver Canucks – Jan 07, 2010 / 7:00PM PST (SNET-P, CSN-NW)
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Written by Luke Mirza