Larry Wigge | NHL.com Columnist
There are those who want to call what Daniel and Henrik Sedin are doing for the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the St. Louis Blues a salary push. Or maybe it's more like a vindication for them, trying to show the hockey world that they can cause havoc with their immense skills in the playoffs just like they have in the regular season since joining the Canucks for the 2000-01 season.
In truth, stopping the Sedins is like trying to track down a fox. You simply can't catch them to slow them down -- and that's where their one-on-one skills and ability to be challenged by physical play from opponents just makes them better. That fox-like guile makes the Sedins hard to contain whether it's in October or in an April playoff game.
In Game 3 Sunday, Daniel had one goal and Henrik set up Steve Bernier for the team's third power-goal 1:41 into the third period to give Vancouver a 3-2 victory and a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. But it seemed like the Sedins were all over the ice.
Even though they have been given extra attention by the Blues, the Sedins have taken a licking and kept on ticking -- using computer-like precision masked in an artistry of skills with the puck to combine with linemate Alex Burrows for four goals and six assists on the eight Vancouver goals in the series.
"We're used to having other players try to run us, be physical with us," Henrik said matter-of-factly after Game 3. "We love to play other teams are coming at us. Why? Because it just gives us more room to make plays."
Consider that a simple Swedish translation for this magical mystery tour the Sedins are putting on display.
"The twins are so competitive, they take it as a challenge when other teams try to kill them out there," Burrows said. "Especially down low. So often teams can't contain them down low in their own zone and have to take penalties."
Added coach Alain Vigneault, "It's obvious St. Louis has identified the twins to be hit. Bottom line: The twins don't back down. To the contrary, it motivates them to be better."
That's the Sedin factor.
And in Game 3 in St. Louis, when Blues coach Andy Murray had the last line change, he wanted his checking unit of Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen and Alex Steen to match up against the Sedins and Burrows -- the same matchup he had in Vancouver for Games 1 and 2. In the first period Sunday night, the Blues checkers were very good -- with Burrows getting the only shot by the line. But in the second, St. Louis wound up chasing the Sedins too much and got into penalty trouble.
The beginning of the end in Game 3 started in the second period when, with St. Louis ahead 1-0, Pavol Demitra took a shot from the high slot that was stopped by St. Louis goaltender Chris Mason. Burrows shot the rebound over the net. The pressure caused McClement to take a slashing penalty. That shift set up the first of two power-play goals, as Mattias Ohlund and Daniel Sedin scored 2:21 apart for a 2-1 Vancouver lead.
Crombeen, again chasing the Sedins, took a penalty at the end of the second period that carried over into the third and resulted in Bernier's game-winning power-play goal.
"They are so elusive," McClement said. "They like contact. They spin off it. And then they make a lot of plays you don't expect. They are both very tricky."
It's true that there are some salient financial points yet to be discussed as the Sedins finish off the three-year contracts in which they make $3.67 million each. Reports suggest their agent could be looking for five-year deals, worth between $6 million and $7 million a year. But the twins aren't all about the money.
"We don't see dollar signs," Henrik said. "Not even close. Daniel and I are only thinking about winning this series now and going deep into the playoffs. There's not enough money in the world to buy that kind of playoff run."
Pavol Demita was still on the ice with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows seven minutes into the second period with St. Louis ahead 1-0, when Demitra's shot from the high slot was stopped by St. Louis goaltender Chris Mason and Burrows put the rebound over the net. The pressure caused Blues center Jay McClement to take a slashing penalty. That shift set up the first of two power-play goals as Mattias Ohlund and Daniel Sedin scored 2:21 apart for a 2-1 Vancouver lead.
Call it Sami Salo or maybe just the lively boards behind the St. Louis net early in the third period. Either way, Vancouver got a great bounce off the backboards when Salo's point shot went wildly wide. The puck caromed out to Henrik Sedin at the side of the net, where he quickly backhanded a no-look pass across the goal crease to Steve Bernier for Vancouver's third power-play goal and a 3-2 lead 1:41 into the third period.
David Backes, who had been signed to a free-agent offer sheet by Vancouver in July that was matched by St. Louis, got the Blues' first goal. A few days later, in apparent retaliation, the Blues signed Canucks restricted free agent Steve Bernier, and Vancouver quickly matched that offer. Ironically, Bernier got the go-ahead goal for Vancouver on a power play 1:41 into the third period.
Trying to hold down the Sedins and Alex Burrows, the Blues' checking line of Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen and Alex Steen had its hands full. In fact, McClement and Crombeen were called for the three penalties that wound up allowing the Canucks the opportunity to score three power-play goals -- which was the game-changing stat of the night.
Hitting. That was St. Louis' calling card early in the game, as the Blues had 10 hits in the first 8:48 of the game and a 12-4 edge that caused Daniel Sedin to take a penalty at the 10:33 mark. In total, the Blues had a 19-5 edge in hits in the first period and drew five Vancouver penalties. But the Blues lost their hitting frenzy after that, finishing with just nine more for the game. Game 4 will have to be robust for St. Louis to stay alive in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series.