VANCOUVER – Finishing off the Nashville Predators sooner rather than later is the priority for the Vancouver Canucks.
For Daniel Sedin, having the Canucks advance to the NHL Western Conference final takes precedence over concerns about how many points he and his twin brother Henrik have produced so far in the playoffs.
“We have been winning games,” Daniel Sedin said Friday, moments after stepping off a charter flight from Nashville. “I can care less about scoring points or anything like that.
“It’s all about winning.”
The Canucks take a 3-1 series lead into Saturday’s Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal against the Predators (CBC, 8 p.m. ET). A win at Rogers Arena will eliminate the Predators and send Vancouver to the conference final for the first time since 1994.
It would also save another long flight back to Nashville for a Game 6 Monday.
“We want to finish this series tomorrow,” said Daniel, a finalist for the league’s MVP. “We need to play our best because they are going to do that.
“We have to play the way we have been so far, good defensively, and realize it’s going to be a low-scoring game again. It’s going to be tight going into the third. That’s the way we like it.”
Defenceman Shea Weber said Nashville has to halt Vancouver’s momentum before it crushes the Predators.
“The momentum shifted way too fast,” said Weber. “We haven’t done enough.
“We’ve got to be a lot better. No excuses. Now we have to win.”
The Canucks have managed to poke holes in the stifling Nashville defence and made goaltender Pekka Rinne look human. The patience the Predators showed early in the series looked to be fraying in Nashville’s 4-2 loss Thursday.
“There was more scrums and spearing and grabbing after the whistles and chirping from the bench,” said Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa.
“That makes me think they are getting a little more frustrated. They feel they have to even the score by doing those kinds of things.”
The lack of production from the Sedins has been a dark cloud hovering over Vancouver’s playoff march. There have been questions if the Canucks can challenge for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history if the bothers don’t begin scoring more.
Daniel Sedin, who led the NHL in scoring this season with 104 points and a career-high 41 goals, had one assist Thursday.
Brother Henrik, last year’s scoring champion and league MVP, had two assists and scored his first goal of the playoffs, into an empty net.
Before Thursday, Henrik had one assist in the previous seven games. So far in the playoffs he has one goal, seven assists and is a minus-4.
There has been speculation Henrik, who had 94 points during the regular season, is playing with an injury, something he denies.
Daniel has two goals and a pair of assists in the last two games. Prior to that he had two assists in six games. In 11 playoff games he has five goals, four assists and is a minus-3.
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault shrugged off any criticism of the Sedins.
“They’ve played well,” said Vigneault. “They spent a lot of time in the (last) two games in Nashville’s end, getting scoring chances, cycling, wearing down their defence.
“Sometimes points are harder to come by. The process is still there. Their process is fine and their effort is real good.”
Goaltender Roberto Luongo can appreciate the expectations being heaped on the brothers. Luongo has been the lightening rod for criticism in past Canuck playoff failures.
“I know the twins have had a lot of pressure on their shoulders because they haven’t put up many points,” said Luongo.
“Playoffs are not about individual achievements. It doesn’t matter if they score or not. We want to win games. We need to win four games out of seven. What ever means we need to get that done, that’s what we will do.”
While the Sedins may be struggling, centre Ryan Kesler is making an early claim as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
Kesler leads the Canucks with 11 points and has scored the game-winning goal in the last two matches. He’s been Vancouver’s backbone on defence, parked himself in front of the net during power plays and killed penalties.
Typical Kesler, said Luongo.
“He’s playing the way he has all year,” said Luongo. “He’s not only about point production.
“He’s a guy that is valuable to a team in more ways than one.”
Neither Kesler or Henrik Sedin were among the players the Canucks made available for interviews Friday.
The Canucks flirted with disaster during the opening round of the playoffs.
Vancouver took a 3-0 series lead against arch nemesis Chicago, then needed overtime in Game 7 to finish off the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Besides inflicting a lot of angst on their fans, the Canucks expended emotion and energy they could have saved for later in the playoffs.
A quick finish against Nashville would give players a chance to rest and heal any wounds.
“We want to win the next game as bad as we wanted to win Game 7 against Chicago,” said Bieksa.
“That answers your question right there.”
The Predators have advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Coach Barry Trotz said the team doesn’t want the experience to end.
“It’s one game,” said Trotz. “We have one game to win. If we can take care of business, then we’ve got one (more game to win).
“We don’t really have any room for error right now.”