The Sedin twins are separated by just four career games and two career points. This past season they each had exactly 82 points. If they were any closer as players, they’d be hockey’s version of Chang and Eng Bunker.
So it’s no surprise that the Sedins went into this year’s playoffs with reputations as double disappointments in the post-season. It took them 43 playoff games to gain that reputation, so it probably won’t be cleared up after just one, but if you’re a Vancouver Canucks fan, you have to like what you saw in Game 1 against St. Louis.
(If you’re not, you were treated to a typical Western Conference eye-glazer. Not sure what was more tedious, the game itself or the continual exposure to the advertisement that features a very fat, incredibly unattractive man applying a tattoo to his chest backward.)
You hear it thousands of times at this time of the year, your best players have to be, well, you know. And that was the case for the Canucks in Night No. 1 of the NHL playoffs. And if Daniel and Henrik Sedin continue to play over the next two months the way they did the first night of the post-season, there’s an excellent chance they’ll guide the Canucks on a long playoff run and earn themselves a couple of outrageous contracts this summer.
The Sedins were assertive as they were creative and even though the game was something of a snorefest, they were dangerous all night. Daniel scored a goal and an assist and Henrik added a helper in Vancouver’s 2-1 victory over the Blues in Game 1 and that has to be a big relief to everyone in the Canucks organization.
The Canucks knew Roberto Luongo was going to be great and he was. If there’s a goalie in the league who is better at tracking and following the puck in the NHL, please let us know his identity. When the Blues did generate a couple of chances on their endless string of power plays, Luongo managed to make the saves look pretty easy because he was able to read the Blues’ intentions every time they had the puck on their sticks.
(Give the Blues their props, though. Even though the game wasn’t near as close as the score indicated, their young players did not have the deer-in-the-headlights thing going in their first playoff appearances.)
But the Sedins were a little more of a wildcard, given how they were pretty much shutdown by the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks last spring. They didn’t blow the doors off anyone to be sure, but they responded in a big way with gritty, inspired and energetic play. They showed an enormous amount of patience with the puck and applied a lot of pressure down low, which opened up several good opportunities.
The best-player theory also played itself out in Game 1 for the New Jersey Devils, a team that didn’t get good enough performances from its top players in last spring’s ouster at the hands of the New York Rangers. The top line of Travis Zajac between Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were difference-makers and goalie Martin Brodeur was sharp, but largely untested, in stopping 18 of 19 shots.
We’ve been saying this about the Devils for a long time, but these are not your father’s New Jersey Devils and they showed exactly that in Game 1. They are far more assertive and threw 38 shots at a Carolina Hurricanes team that came into the playoffs as one of the hottest in the league.
And if the trends continue on either side of the continent, look for the Canucks and Devils to move on to the second round.
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Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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