I have to admit that I was never quite convinced that the Sedins could carry this team. First, there were naysayers that their offensive success had come because opposing teams' top defensive pairings regularly drew the famed West Coast Express. After Todd Bertuzzi was shipped off to Florida, Brendan Morrison signed with Anaheim, and Markus Naslund left for Manhattan before retiring, there is no higher scoring duo than Dan and Henrik. Since the lockout, Henrik is ranked among the top five playmaking centres in the league while Daniel has become a legitimate 30-goal scoring threat. After establishing early in the season that the pair can be legitimate top-liners, with Henrik on pace for a 100+ point season and well on his way to establishing a new career high in goals, the new question that has emerged is whether or not they can carry the team to the promised land. While I don't think the Canucks are considered favourites to win the Cup, I think that the most important aspect about this coming-out party for the Sedins is their new-found swagger.
Back when the WCE was at its peak, the Canucks stepped onto the ice knowing that they could score 4, 5, or even 6 goals against their opposition no matter who was in net. They were confident and cocky in their abilities. They took risks, they mouthed off, and they weren't backing down to anybody. When the line began to falter and Naslund no longer had his seeing-eye wrister, the Canucks lost that swagger and what followed was an bout of inconsistency, hesitancy, and lack of execution in key situations or games. Four seasons since the lockout, two division banners but also two playoff misses.
<img src="http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/00297/Samuelson26_297301gm-a.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">In today's Winter Classic (a great game, by the way), Don Cherry made a point about the recent Calgary-Vancouver tilt in which Henrik was knocked down by Dion Phaneuf but proceeded to get back up and score in the same shift. Ignoring his celebrating teammates, Henrik proceeded to skate by Phaneuf and let him know that he's not going to take that kind of hit and not do anything about it. I noticed that while watching the game as well and had a good laugh. It's always nice to see that dumb look on Phaneuf's face. It was much of the same in St. Louis, except it was brother Daniel that wasn't afraid to run his mouth against Barret Jackman while Shane O'Brien, ever the consummate teammate, jumped to his defense. While I do agree that Dan Carcillo's post-fight celebration was a bush-league move, I personally like the cocky confidence the Sedins now exude.
Scratch that - I friggin' love it.
Five years ago, or even a year ago, I don't think we would've really seen the Sedins really stick up for themselves like that. Perhaps it was because we've always had a Jarkko Ruutu or Matt Cooke on our team. And remember the Wade Brookbank experiment as the third brother? Perhaps it's because the Sedins have now really embraced their roles as the leaders of the team, especially with the new 'A' on Henrik's sweater. Perhaps Mikael Samuelsson's rubbing off on them. Whatever the reason is, expect more great things from the Sedins. Why? Because this new found aggression has always served players well. Defensemen now know that you can't push the Sedins without getting a response. When's the last time anyone called them the sisters? The Sedins are smart players and they'll hit you where it hurts most: the scoreboard.