Tag: Sedin twins

Ryan Kesler

Canucks don’t want to make excuses for mediocrity

Many expected the Vancouver Canucks to get out of the gate in a sluggish way. For a while, it seemed OK too, as the Boston Bruins stumbled a bit too. Yet as the Bruins surge, the Canucks continue to sleepwalk through the first quarter of the season, producing a record that is the definition of mediocre: 9-9-1.* The Canucks won’t take the bait in making any excuses about their lame start, though, as they told Kevin Woodley of NHL.com.

“I don’t even remember the playoffs last year. Nobody remembers,” Kevin Bieksa said. “There are no more excuses like that. We’re well into our schedule right now. We’re thinking about this year, and that’s not even on our minds right now.”

Bieksa ranks among the Canucks whose results have been very disappointing this season. The Sedin twins are producing like usual and Alexander Edler is making everyone forget about Christian Ehrhoff, but the depth guys need to step up. Ryan Kesler might not be 100 percent right now, but Vancouver needs more than seven points in 14 games from the reigning Selke Trophy winner.

So will the Canucks bounce back? It depends on how far you’re expecting them to go. A playoff spot is reasonably in reach, as they’re only currently three points behind the seventh-ranked St. Louis Blues and eighth place Edmonton Oilers. It might be a little too much to ask them to pillage their way through the NHL’s regular season again, though.

* – Going into tonight’s game, the Canucks were also dead even in goal differential: 56 scored and allowed.

This just in: Roberto Luongo isn’t Vancouver’s only problem

Brian Elliott

When something stinks, it’s comforting for people to turn to a single scapegoat to create the illusion that greatness is a tweak away. Some teams try to live that lie by arbitrarily firing assistant coaches; other fan bases throw a struggling goalie under the bus.

Roberto Luongo has been that easy target during a sleepy start to the Vancouver Canucks’ season, but the St. Louis Blues made it clear that he isn’t the team’s only problem by beating Vancouver 3-0 on Wednesday night.

Quietly streaking Blues backup Brian Elliott earned his first shutout since Dec. 1, 2010 while boy wonder Cory Schneider allowed three goals in defeat. (Maybe Luongo destroyed morale by picking his nose on the bench at one point, but that hasn’t been confirmed.)

The game seemed to follow a discouraging trend of slow starts by the 2011 Western Conference finalists, as they only sent 15 shots at Elliott threw the first two periods before erupting with 17 in the final frame. It’s hard not to look at the lack of penalties as another sign of a flat evening, too; the game included just one two-minute minor through the first 40 minutes before there were four in third period.

Beyond sleepwalking through the beginning of games and Luongo’s panic-inducing struggles, the Canucks have some other issues.

  • They’ve already been shutout three times this season.
  • Ryan Kesler might be back, but he isn’t quite Ryan Kesler yet. The two-way center has just two points in five games after returning from off-season surgery.
  • The Sedin twins simply aren’t getting enough support. The team’s top scorers are (in order): Daniel – 12 points, Henrik – 11, Sami Salo – 7, Alex Edler – 6 with Alexandre Burrows and Chris Higgins are tied at 5. Their star doppelgangers are doing fine, but they can’t do it alone.
  • After taking a “hometown discount,” Kevin Bieksa has one assist and a -9 rating in 10 games.
  • I know that he absorbs a lot of tough matchups, but great defensive center Manny Malhotra’s -6 rating makes me wonder if Kesler isn’t the only Canucks center who’s far from 100 percent.

So yeah, it’s probably more fun to blurt out “Luongo!” when explaining the Canucks’ troubles, but the more disturbing fact for Vancouver fans is that there are plenty of other issues at hand.

On the bright side, the 4-5-1 Canucks play in the mediocre Northwest Division, so there’s plenty of time for them to get their acts together – whether it’s with Luongo or Schneider in net.

Sedin twins’ struggles aren’t that different from other star slumps in recent Cup finals history

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin

Whenever a superstar player (or two, in this case) struggles on the league’s highest stage, the opposing defenses rarely get the credit they deserve. Usually media members and fans blame a deficit in an individual’s game – typically their “toughness” or ability to deal with pressure – for Stanley Cup finals failures.

The toughness factor certainly seems to be the major component of the criticism lobbed at the Vancouver Canucks’ Sedin twins, who are struggling to create their typically steady stream of offense against the Boston Bruins. Henrik Sedin hasn’t scored a single point in the 2011 finals series while reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin scored a goal and an assist in Game 2 for his only points of the championship round. Henrik has a -2 rating so far while Daniel is -1.

For many old-timers, the Sedin twins fall victim to the supposedly “soft European” style of play that many believe doesn’t translate as well to the playoffs as the perceptively more “rugged” North American mindset. Yet when you also look at the struggles of two of the NHL’s biggest stars – two Canadian stars, by the way – in previous years, it’s clear that there’s nothing particularly special about the Sedins’ struggles. In fact, it’s possible that we probably should have seen it coming.

Jonathan Toews won last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy, but he was far from the finals MVP

It’s likely that more than a few sportswriters would love to depict Jonathan Toews as the mighty, hard-working antidote to the floating Sedin twins. Unfortunately for that knee-jerk reaction, the parallels between the Sedins’ slump and Toews’ title round torment are pretty clear.

In six games against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, Toews managed three assists and an ugly -5 rating. Much like the Sedin twins, Toews was forced to deal with an all-world defenseman (Chris Pronger) and needed his teammates to help him win a Cup. As hot as Michael Leighton was during the playoffs, I think we can all agree that the Sedins also face a far more formidable goalie in Tim Thomas.

Sidney Crosby was often foiled by the Henrik Zetterberg-Nicklas Lidstrom combo

In 2009’s seven-game finals series against the Detroit Red Wings, Crosby managed just a goal and two assists with a -3 rating. Much like the Sedin twins against Zdeno Chara, Thomas and the Bruins’ forwards, Crosby found himself frequently frustrated by Lidstrom and Zetterberg.

Luckily for Crosby, Evgeni Malkin exploited the Red Wings’ lesser defensemen enough to win the team’s third Stanley Cup and take the Conn Smythe as well.


The Sedin twins don’t deserve a “free pass” for their struggles, but they shouldn’t be singled out as “soft” either. Crosby and Toews received some mild criticism when they had tough moments, but the speculation didn’t focus on some perceived lack of intestinal fortitude. (Unless you’re talking about Washington Capitals or Red Wings fans critiquing Crosby, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

It’s really not that tough to figure out why the Sedin twins are having so much troubling filling the net. Much like their first round series against 2010 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and their second round skirmish with Norris finalist Shea Weber’s Nashville Predators, the Sedin twins are trying to score points against some of the world’s best at denying scorers. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Sedins devoured a looser defense in the San Jose Sharks, either.

The Sedin twins aren’t above criticism for their struggles. The Canucks will probably need more production from them, whether it comes from the power play or 5-on-5 play. That being said, their issues have nothing to do with their manliness. It just shows that they’re human.

Ryan Kesler missed practice Sunday, but should play in Game 6 on Monday

Brad Marchand, Ryan Kesler

Going into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, it seemed like the Boston Bruins were confronted with a pick-your-poison proposition. The feeling was that they’d either get shredded by the Sedin twins’ cycling game or fall victim to Ryan Kesler facing lesser defensive matchups much like the Nashville Predators did in Round 2.

Yet through five games, it seems like they haven’t been victimized by either of the Vancouver Canucks’ one-two punches very often. While they’re creating the odd chance here or there, Henrik and Daniel Sedin are getting bottled up by the Bruins’ responsible two-way forwards and the dynamic D duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. It would seem like that focus would open the door for Kesler, but it’s quite possible that he is simply too banged up to take advantage of what might normally be beneficial matchups.

While Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said that “he’s fine” and was just receiving some rest, NHL.com notes that Kesler missed his first “non-optional” practice on Sunday. His absence probably emboldens many who wonder if Kesler is far from 100 percent, pointing to a possible groin injury suffered in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks as a chief problem among other bumps and bruises.

Despite the Bruins’ reputation for strong defense (which admittedly has been shaken at times in the playoffs), many people think that injuries are the main explanation for Kesler’s Cup finals struggles. He has zero goals and just one assist – on Raffi Torres’ Game 1 winner – in five games against Boston. Those away games really hurt his plus/minus (-4 in those two losses, -3 overall in the last round) and his frustration is apparent in the 33 PIM he collected in the last three games.

That being said, Kesler is fighting through whatever pain and hindrance he’s dealing with quite admirably. He’s still receiving plentiful ice time and continues to win a nice amount of faceoffs on most nights. It’s a bit reminiscent of his performances against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, although he was able to collect more points in that series.

The Canucks have managed to get this far in this series with limited help from their star players, who must range from “running out of gas” to nursing injuries (or just bottled up by great defense). Yet if Vancouver wants to avoid a high-pressure Game 7 in front of what could be a fragile bunch of Canucks fans, they might need some more heroics from Kesler, a player who once seemed like a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

They’ll probably settle for him merely playing in Game 6, though.

Head games: While Luongo’s psyche is in question, is Thomas in Canucks’ heads?

Tim Thomas

One thing that traditional writers love (and stats-leaning bloggers often despise) is the concept of the “mental game” in sports. While it seems like a lot of people grossly exaggerate ideas like “choking” and “being rattled,” the undeniable fact is that human beings are involved. (Yes, even the seemingly robotic Sedin twins count in that category.)

Sometimes that brings about the most fragile of human emotions, factors that are seemingly playing a big part in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

It’s tough to deny the pivotal moment of motivation that came for the Boston Bruins after that ugly Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton, whether that motivation was manifested in sheer anger, bold inspiration or a combination of the two.

After being outscored 12-1 in those two mind-blowing beat-downs in Beantown, it’s reasonable to wonder about the collective psyche of the Presidents Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks too. The questions naturally begin with their probable Game 5 starter Roberto Luongo. Some goalies have the mindset to shake off every mistake as if they never happened, but Luongo occasionally falls into a habit of letting a soft goal or two to derail him like a train in a middling popcorn movie.

Justin Goldman captured Luongo’s seemingly frail psyche in his NHL.com column.

From the drop of the puck, I could see Luongo’s body language was off. His legs looked heavy. Instead of exuding confidence, he appeared passive and complacent. It was not an easy start to Game 4 for either goaltender though, as choppy plays and missed chances forced both goalies to battle hard to track the puck and stay square.


On Peverley’s goal, Luongo proved that solid technique is an extension of solid confidence. Without the poise and patience of a confident goalie, Luongo’s technique appeared flawed. A strong mind is the source of a strong save.

In a game where there’s simply no time to appear fragile, Luongo relinquished three more goals that proved he was not alert or attentive enough to bounce back. This is where things went wrong for Vancouver’s leader — he simply failed to play with the confidence he had in Games 1 and 2.

While Luongo’s miserable play inspires all kind of questions from Vancouver fans – and plenty of confidence for Boston shooters – the opposite is true of Tim Thomas vs. the Canucks. Thomas allowed just one goal in two games at home after being mostly stout in Vancouver (he only allowed five goals in the first four games of this series). Even in defeat, Thomas has been a tough nut to crack, inspiring many to wonder if the highlight reel machine of a goalie is in the Canucks’ heads.

Naturally, they denied the idea.

“Not at all,” Daniel Sedin said when he was asked if Thomas is in the Canucks’ heads. “There are a few games left. There is nothing like that going on. We have to find a way to solve him. He’s not in our heads, but we have to find a way to solve him.”

To some extent, I believe Sedin for a simple reason: I don’t think expectations or opposing goalies do much to alter the Sedin twins’ style. For better or worse, Henrik Sedin will almost always pass and the duo will almost always create nice scoring chances. The key is for Daniel Sedin to get to the slot and for the two (along with Alexandre Burrows) to penetrate the defense rather instead of floating on the perimeter. They managed to have their way against the San Jose Sharks, but tighter checking defenses have given them fits with discouraging frequency throughout the playoffs.

Maybe Thomas isn’t in Vancouver’s heads, but could the bruising, opportunistic Bruins be as a whole?

Whether they win or lose this series, we’ve already seen that Boston will roll with the punches. Despite overcoming serious challenges already, the Canucks are once again placed in a situation where their toughness is in question. We’ll learn a lot about Luongo and this Vancouver team as this series boils down to a best-of-three. It doesn’t take a strong mind to figure that one out.