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Good Game 1s have fueled Vancouver's playoff run

by Emily Kaplan / Vancouver Canucks

Apart from grabbing the early series lead, Henrik Sedin believes the Canucks' success in Game 1s this postseason has done wonders for the team's psyche and confidence.

"It shows you can play against the other team, and you don't really have to change a lot of things," Vancouver's captain said Wednesday morning. "The next game they're going to have to make adjustments to beat you. That's an advantage for sure."

Vancouver has won all three Game 1s this postseason and seven straight dating back to the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals. But Wednesday's Game 1 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) signifies the start of the Stanley Cup Final, and that's a totally different animal.
 
"If you don't have nerves (Wednesday night), something is wrong with you," Daniel Sedin said, smiling.
 
The only healthy Canuck to have experienced a Game 1 of this magnitude is Raffi Torres, who did it with Edmonton in 2006. Several of them have played in medal-round games at the Olympics and World Championships, but they also realize that experience isn't exactly the greatest guide heading into the Stanley Cup Final.
 
Those international competitions are one-off games played with guys they've been around for only a few weeks. The Stanley Cup Final is a seven-game series played with players they've gone to battle with for nine months.
 
"Obviously the Olympics were one of the biggest stages I've ever played on. I believe this is bigger," center Ryan Kesler said. "Every year we work for the same goal. To finally get here and to finally have a chance at achieving our goal, it's something special."
 
Daniel Sedin called this Game 1 the biggest game of his career, and he's played for the gold medal in the Olympics.
 
"I think you look at Olympic finals, World Championships, but when you play this long, with good friends and teammates, it's the biggest game you can play," he said.
 
Until Game 2 -- but the Canucks don't care about that one just yet.
 
"Our philosophy -- and you've heard me say this I don't know how many times this year -- has been one game at a time," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We get ready for that game, we play it, we analyze it, make the adjustments that we need, and move on. That's what we're going to do. After that, we're going to get ready for Game 2."
 
Game 2 isn't until Saturday so the Canucks will have two days to dissect whatever happens Wednesday night. That might seem long, but they've had almost eight full days to prepare for Game 1.
 
"It's plenty enough," Henrik Sedin said. "Four or five days (off) would have been good. We like to play games. We don't like to practice as much. It would have been nice to get going earlier, but this is the way it is."
 
Vigneault doesn't expect the long layoff to have any effect on his team. All he needs to do is look back to 2009 when the Canucks swept the Blues in the first round and had to wait nine days before starting the second round against Chicago.
 
They won Game 1 of that series, 5-3.
 
"I think we used this time off extremely well from a hockey standpoint as far as making sure that our guys stay real sharp on the ice through practices, real sharp as far as what we've done off ice with (strength and conditioning coach) Roger (Takahashi) and his group," Vigneault said. "Glenn (Carnegie), our skill coach, has worked a lot with our players before practices. I don't see this layoff being a problem at all."
 
It certainly won't be if the Canucks recent history in Game 1s continues.
 
"We play to play in June, and it's going to be fun (Wednesday night)," Kesler said. "Obviously there's going to be some butterflies, all that good stuff, but as soon as the puck drops … we're going to enjoy this ride we're going to be on."

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