Reaching 1,000 NHL games Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets amid the worst slump since he joined the Canucks in 2000 has put a damper on the occasion. But as Sedin looked back on some tough early years in Vancouver, it was easy to find perspective on the Canucks' current woes.
Sleep didn't come easy then, and it isn't coming easy now.
"A lot of nights you lay in bed and wonder what has happened," Sedin said of a 2-11-1 slide that has dropped Vancouver into 11th place in the Western Conference, six points out of the final wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It reminds the 33-year-old of his first few seasons in the League with twin brother Daniel Sedin, when the expectations of being picked second and third in the 1999 NHL Draft weighed heavily on the teenagers from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden.
Fans and some in the media questioned and criticized their speed and strength. They were just trying to make it through the next game. Playing 1,000 was the last thing on Henrik's mind.
"There were times it was tough to wake up in the morning," he said. "You didn't want to fall asleep at night because you knew the next day was going to come and it wasn't a lot of fun. But we didn't look any further ahead than the next practice, the next day."
It wasn't until the 2005-06 season that the Sedin's "next day" included starring roles on Vancouver's top line. In 2010 Henrik won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer with 112 points and the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player. Daniel won the Art Ross Trophy the next season and the Canucks made it to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Boston Bruins.
Expectations changed, and as Henrik prepared Tuesday for a "next day" that includes his 1,000th game in the NHL, his inability to help the team live up to them as captain this season weighed heavily on him.
"Personally, after those first years, it's easy for us to handle adversity," Henrik said. "But as a team, you have to remember the pressure and expectations are way higher than they've ever been. Ten years ago, battling for a playoff spot, we wouldn't be talking about this. Now I think people expect us to win every year and we expect it ourselves because we've been there. That makes it tougher."
Not much has come easy for the Canucks or the Sedins this season.
Henrik had his nearly 10-year ironman streak snapped at 679 games with a rib injury in January that kept him out eight games. Daniel, who is 30 games behind his older-by-minutes brother, will miss his fifth straight game with a leg injury and isn't traveling with the team, so he won't be there when Henrik becomes the 287th player in NHL history to play 1,000 games, the 48th to do so with the same team and the 50th to do so with the same franchise.
Henrik downplayed his brother's absence from the milestone game, but longtime linemate Alexandre Burrows knows Daniel will hear all about it.
"They always compete with each other, whether it's playing cards or drills on the ice," Burrows said. "So I am sure Henrik will remind Daniel he got to 1,000 first."
Henrik leads the career scoring race, with 833 points to Daniel's 798. But the points haven't come as easily for either this season.
Henrik leads the Canucks with 41 points, but his goal during a 7-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday was his first in 23 games and his first point in 12. He is on pace for his lowest total since becoming the team's top center a decade ago, and admitted those struggles have made it harder to be a vocal leader.
"Of course it is," he said. "I have been around a lot of [1,000-game] guys from other teams and talked to [former Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas] Lidstrom, who didn't say much but led on the ice, and if you are not performing the way you want to, or for me not being able to score or put up the points we need as a team, it's tougher. But you have to come to the rink every day and be upbeat and try to get better, otherwise you are going to lose the team around you and that can't happen."
Teammates say that hasn't happened. The captain quickly sought out rookie goaltender Eddie Lack after the Canucks blew a 3-0 lead and tied a franchise record by giving up seven goals in the third period against the Islanders.
"He is always trying to pick you up and be positive and that's really important in a situation like this," Lack said.
That situation makes it harder for Henrik to enjoy his 1,000th NHL game, even if the achievement seemed so unlikely when he played his first game almost 14 years ago. But when he does look back, whether at the end of the season or the end of his career, the best part will be playing them all with the same franchise.
"You see guys around the League that do it and it's a big thing, but they have usually been around to different teams," Henrik said. "We have been very fortunate to play on the same team, in the same city for a long time. That's rare."
|Back to top|