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Oh So Swede

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
It's hard to forget when Canucks radio broadcaster John Shorthouse made the now famous "O Captain, My Captain" call a few years back. It was enough to send shivers down the spine of every fan in Canuck Nation.

But at times during this past regular season those shivers were few and far between.

The classy Captain appeared frustrated, out of gas and was openly criticized by seasoned NHL pundits around the league who predicted the best wasn't yet to come for Naslund - it was already here and gone.

Like a reigning heavyweight champion who refuses to relinquish his title belt, Naslund has picked himself up off the mat and come out swinging during the first three games of this postseason.

The 33-year-old Swede has a goal and an assist, but more importantly, he's forechecked with a ferocious tenacity and thrown his body into Dallas Stars players in all three zones. Is there a better way to demonstrate pure leadership than to get in and do the same dirty work usually reserved for fourth line checkers?

Lead and they will follow.

"I think that was a huge leadership display right there," said Roberto Luongo about the performance of Naslund in game one. "He took the body left and right and really took charge. You've got to dig deep in the playoffs. You've got to play out of character sometimes."

By Naslund's self-imposed high standards, 60 points in the regular season may seem like a disappointment compared to his career year in 2002-03 when he tallied 48 goals and 56 assists.

"Personally, I do think I can put up more points than I did this year," said Naslund. "But I don't think I let my team down. When you win the division, I really don't care who is scoring. Maybe I let Henrik and Daniel (Sedin) down because they had to do the bulk of it. But they weren't complaining."

If Naslund keeps up his elevated play in the playoffs, not many Vancouver fans will be complaining either.

After the Canucks fell behind 1-0 in game three and didn't have a sniff of an offensive threat for most of the first two periods, Head Coach Alain Vigneault juggled his lines and used his valuable ace in the hole by reuniting Naslund with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

The trio from Ornskoldsvik Sweden played together like long lost brothers.

Naslund and the Twins dominated the offensive zone with constant cycling and never-ending puck possession and according to Vigneault, the line bamboozling may have caused Dallas head Coach Dave Tippett to think twice about which players to send over the boards against Vigneault's trump card.

"They've got two good defensive oriented lines," said Vigneault after the game three 2-1 overtime victory. "They like to play Modano against the Twins and they've always got Zubov and Sydor against them. There's not a lot of room for both teams on the ice."

Vigneault's thoughts may sound evasive and not very forthcoming, but it's playoff time - nothing is as it seems. Just ask Henrik about whether or not he thinks Naslund will be on the Sedin line on Tuesday night's all important game four.

"It's being working well with Pysie (Pyatt) too, so we'll see what happens next game," said Henrik after game three. "Like I said, he's a world class player and fun to play with. It's been working good the whole season pretty much when we play together. We'll see what happens next game."

Naslund agreed the momentum of game three completely changed when the new line combinations hit the ice.

"I thought we took over halfway through the second. After that, we generated lots of chances," said Naslund.

Don't bet against them not playing together on Tuesday night. But then again, maybe the Coach has another ace up his sleeve.
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