VANCOUVER, B.C. – For years he was the Sedin who would rather pass than score.
It was a role Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin felt comfortable with. He was content to feather the puck to brother Daniel, then watch his twin knock it into the net.
Last season things began to change. Henrik realized he also could score goals. That new-found confidence around the net is one of the reasons Henrik won this season’s NHL scoring race with a career-high 29 goals and a franchise record 112 points.
“I started shooting more last year and started to score,” Henrik said Monday. “I finally realized it helps a lot of different areas of our game, and the line’s game, when I became more of a threat to shoot the puck and score.
“Before I didn’t really have faith in my shot and being able to beat goalies from further out than two feet. It has changed the mindset of other teams playing us and matching up against us.”
Henrik had 22 goals last year. His most in a season before that was 18 in 2005-06.
Daniel Sedin said his brother always had the ability to score, just maybe not the desire.
“He shoots a lot more,” said Daniel, who had a career-high 85 points despite missing 18 games this season with a broken foot. “When he shoots, he shoots to score.
“You have to respect his shot a lot more. He has a pretty good shot too.”
Henrik Sedin is the first Canuck to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. He also broke the team record of 110 points in a season set by Pavel Bure in 1992-93.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” he said. “I don’t think it really has sunk in yet. It’s something you will look back after the season and realize it’s something big.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”
Henrik Sedin’s next challenge will be to try to lead the Canucks past the second round of the playoffs for the first time since Vancouver lost to the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup final.
The Canucks claimed the Northwest Division title and the third seed in the Western Conference with a 49-28-5 record for 103 points. The Kings (46-27-9) were only two points back in sixth place.
The best-of-seven series begins Thursday night in Vancouver (CBC, 10 p.m. ET).
It will be the Kings’ first playoff appearance since 2002. Vancouver had a 3-1 record in games against Los Angeles this year, but the Kings pasted the Canucks 8-3 in their last meeting.
“They have a great young team,” said Henrik. “It’s going to be a real tough matchup.
“We are going to have to play a lot better defence with them than we have in the past. We have the system in place to do that and the guys to do that.”
The Canucks head into the playoffs battered on defence.
Veteran Willie Mitchell has been out since January with a concussion and is not expected to return soon. Aaron Rome, Sami Salo and Shane O’Brien are all listed as day to day with various injuries.
Vancouver also suffered a late-season swoon, going 6-5-2 in the last 13 games. The Canucks gave up three or more goals in 15 of their last 21 games.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo, who helped Canada to Olympic gold last February, has struggled on occasion. He said he’s ready for the playoffs.
“I feel good,” said the Canucks captain. “I’ve been in a good state of mind the last week or so. I’m excited about the opportunity that we get another chance at it this year.”
Henrik Sedin had an anxious weekend. He collected four assists in Vancouver’s 7-3 win over Calgary on Saturday night to take a three-point lead in the scoring race over Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin was held scoreless in the Capitals’ final game Sunday against Boston. But Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins had five points in his season-ending game against the New York Islanders.
Crosby and Ovechkin ended up tied with 109 points. Crosby and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning tied for the goal-scoring lead with 51.
“After the game against Calgary I felt good, the way we ended the season, the way the crowd reacted,” said Henrik. “If something would have happened with Ovechkin and Crosby, I still would have been extremely proud.”
Henrik and Daniel spent Sunday together watching games. It didn’t take long for the phone to start ringing with congratulations from family and friends in Sweden.
One of the first calls came from Markus Naslund, the former Canuck who finished second in the scoring race in both 2002 and 2003.
The only other Swede to win the scoring title was Peter Forsberg in 2003.
Henrik admitted many people back home were surprised he took the title.
“Playing on the West Coast, people in Sweden don’t follow us as closely as the Detroit guys or the Rangers, those kind of teams,” he said.
“There are a lot of good Swedish hockey players over here that play for other teams. I think they were expecting a couple of those ones to be up there.”
Henrik played most of the year on a line with Daniel and Alex Burrows, who credits Henrik for a season that saw him record 35 goals and 32 assists for 67 points, all career highs.
“He’s such a great player,” said Burrows. “He taught me a few things, telling me where to be and what to do.”
Daniel and Henrik were drafted second and third overall in the 1999 draft. Early in their careers they faced questions over their toughness and speed. Many people wondered if the pair would ever become first-line players.
Henrik doubted the brothers would have stuck it out if they didn’t have each other to rely on.
“During the bad times it was extremely important,” he said. “I don’t think we would have been here if we hadn’t been on the same team. We might have been back in Sweden playing now.
“It’s been a long journey.”