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Jeff Paterson: The little things

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks

A year ago, en route to the Art Ross Trophy as the National Hockey League scoring leader, Daniel Sedin was a threat to put the puck in the net every time he stepped onto the ice.

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Jeff Paterson is an analyst on Team 1040 Radio and is a columnist with the Georgia Straight newspaper.

Follow him on Twitter @patersonjeff

And while he continues to rack up the points and has served notice to the NHL that he intends to make every effort to maintain his grip on the top scorer’s trophy, he’s going about his business in an entirely different manner so far this season.

Where last year, he was Dangerous Dan making life miserable on goalies around the league with precision shooting and a knack for finishing great feeds from brother Henrik, this time around he’s a more subtle Sedin picking up his points as a playmaker more often than a pure sniper.

At the 18-game mark last season, Daniel had scored 12 goals and added 12 assists. At the same juncture this season, his goal total has been cut in half, but his assist total is up by a third – and he’s leading the league in helpers with 16. And so no matter how you do the math, Daniel Sedin is off to another fast start and through games on Monday night sat second in NHL scoring with 22 points just two back of league leader Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Obviously I would like to have a few more goals, but it comes and goes,” Daniel explained after electing to sit out an optional skate on Monday at Rogers Arena to rest his body after three games in four nights with a little travel sprinkled into the mix. “You’re going to go through patches when you don’t score and you’re going to go through patches where you score lots. For me, I don’t really care to be honest with you who scores as long as we win games and I’m helping the team.”

And with victories in three of their last four outings, the Canucks hope they’re starting to gain traction in the competitive Western Conference standings. And to the surprise of no one, Daniel has paced the hockey team recently collecting a goal (the game winner in a 6-2 romp in Chicago on November 6th) and six assists. Already this season, the 31-year-old has had five multi-assist outings something he didn’t accomplish until the game prior to Christmas last season.

As for the goals, Daniel – who has a share of the team lead in that department with brother Henrik and Chris Higgins -- says nothing in his game has changed nor has the way teams are defending him. With the Canucks spreading their offense around lately and getting more defensemen into the act in recent games, Daniel has found himself as a set-up man. But he insists he’s not giving up opportunities to score in order to make plays.

In fact, the statistics show he’s actually shooting the puck more this season than he did during his quick start a year ago. Last year at this time, he had found the back of the net a dozen times on 54 shots. So far this season, he’s launched 58 pucks at the net and figures it’s just a matter of time before he gets into a groove.

“Shot wise I’m up there as I’ve always been so I can’t really focus too much on scoring goals,” he says. “It’s more about getting chances and getting the shots. If I get enough shots, the goals are going to come. We (his line) should probably create a little bit more, but that’s going to come around. When we get those ugly goals and those dirty goals, guys are going to get a little bit more confidence and goals are going to come. So I’m not too worried.”

And neither is the Canucks coaching staff. And why would they be? Daniel Sedin continues to lead the team in scoring and remains one of the best offensive players in the National Hockey League. He’ll have to pick up his pace to get back to the career-high 41 goals he scored last season, but if he’s registering assists it means someone on the team is putting the puck in the net and so it doesn’t really matter who’s pulling the trigger.

“Are we concerned about it? No,” says associate coach Rick Bowness. “And if they [the Sedins] are being defended differently, then they’re going to figure it out. The two of them will sit down figure it out shift to shift. Obviously everyone pays so much attention to them – as they should. They’re great players and they’re fun to watch and they’re frustrating to play against. They’ll figure it out. We’re not concerned about it.”

And really there is nothing to be concerned about. And in some ways, the way Daniel Sedin is going about his business this season just speaks to the versatility in his game. Always thought of as the scorer of the brothers, he’s showing right now that he’s a world-class playmaker, too – perhaps even a little underrated in that department.

At the end of the year when the league hands out the Art Ross, it doesn’t matter how many goals or how many assists a player has. The trophy goes to the guy with the most points in the NHL.

And while Daniel Sedin may be doing things a little differently, don’t be the least bit surprised if the outcome of the scoring race is the same this season as it was a year ago.

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