Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:37 AM
Scoring slump will pump up Canucks
BY JASON BOTCHFORD, THE PROVINCE MARCH 8, 2012
Flashback about a year ago. The Boston Bruins got scorched on March 19 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They had poor defence, spotty goaltending and looked slower than pond water.
That 5-2 loss was the Bruins' sixth in seven games. The chances of doing something in the playoffs? Trending in the wrong direction.
"They would be fortunate to survive a first round in the postseason, never mind challenge for their first Cup since '72," one writer put it then.
A lede in the Boston Globe read: "OK, it's official, the Bruins are a mess."
You know what happened next.
Maybe that's why Henrik Sedin isn't sweating, despite the Canucks' current affair with mediocrity. Henrik believes there can be a tendency to overreact in Vancouver.
"It feels like we're the least worried guys in this city right now," he said. "I think it's good that it happens now."
Good? How can wilting like a lily ever be good?
The Canucks' first line is in its worst crisis since the lockout. Henrik Sedin is pointless in 10 of 13 games and Daniel in nine of 13. They have one assist to show for their past six games, combined.
The last time the Sedins had this many problems putting points on the board, it was December 2003, and they were barely getting Cody Hodgson minutes.
"We were borderline second-line players and that was the last time," Henrik said.
"I'd be worried if we were going five games in the playoffs and we had one helper between us. It doesn't really matter if we put up 100 points or 80 points once we get into the playoffs."
And to think the Sedins aren't the only issue right now for a complacent team that continues to run away with its division and is just a win away from taking over the lead for the President's Trophy.
The second line is in perpetual flux, retooled yet again Wednesday when Chris Higgins was reunited with Ryan Kesler and David Booth.
The power play is MIA, having taken most of 2012 off. It's so bleak that Marc-Andre Gragnani, who couldn't crack Buffalo's lineup, was tapped to lead the first power play unit.
"You can't deny the fact that since the Boston game, it's been in the bottom third of the league," head coach Alain Vigneault said of his power play.
"It's not getting the job done, and we're very aware of it."
How can any of this be good, Henrik?
He actually has an interesting answer to that one.
But first, some history. The Bruins are hardly the only champion to suffer from motivational issues in February or March.
The Hawks lost eight of 11 in March before winning it all. Nearly the same story for Sidney Crosby's Penguins. They lost 7 of 11 in February, then won it all.
The Red Wings most-recent cup team lost 10 of 11 in February. And the Anaheim Ducks may be the best example of all, losing 17 of 25 in an ugly, post all-star performance that was forgotten by the time they hoisted the cup in June.
Many who looked at the pattern have assumed these are great teams who got off to wonderful starts, lost motivation, sagged badly and just flipped a switch for the postseason. But that's not how Henrik sees it. He thinks the slumps are integral teaching moments.
"It's not about turning on a switch. You can't do that. We can't do that," Henrik said. "A lot of times, when you keep winning and winning, you're not looking for things you can do to be better.
"When you start losing, you start looking at things really closely. You work really hard and look for options and alternatives. You battle. You work harder. You get better.
"When you work through those things, it helps you. The adversity helps you, big time.
"Look how it's worked even in the short term. When we won the Olympics in 2006 [with Team Sweden], we struggled early on. We looked at our game closely, we changed things and we got better and better."
Team Sweden won gold that year despite losing to Slovakia 3-0 and Russia 5-0 in the preliminary round.
"It was similar to Canada here in Vancouver in 2010, they struggled early on," Henrik said. "They lost a close game, changed things and improved.
"Sweden, we didn't change anything [in 2010]. We won early and when we hit the adversity wall we had nothing to fall back on. We were a little lost.
"That's why, I think what we're going through right now [with the Canucks] is a good thing.
"Now is better than later."
Well, he's got that part right.
The Canucks haven't been terrible. They've been neither good nor bad. They are 3-3-2 in their last eight, which is surprisingly similar to a 5-5 run they went on almost a year ago to the day.
But this is an experienced team keenly aware it has to be at its best in mid-April, not mid-March. And having a huge lead for the second seed in the Western Conference and having a playoff spot virtually locked down is comforting.
"It gives us time to work ourselves out of this slump," Henrik said. "You can take care of yourself in the gym and work toward being at your peak when you need to be at your peak.
"If we were fighting for a playoff spot right now, this would be a really, really tough stretch.
"We're not happy where we are, but we have time to get out of this."