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The Captain's Message

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
Last year there were a lot of questions about Markus Naslund. Where’s the effort? Isn’t this guy supposed to score goals? Can this guy really captain the team?

If Naslund plays the rest of the season like he did Saturday night against Calgary, we won’t be hearing those questions again.

Anyone who caught the last few seconds of overtime in Saturday night’s game against Calgary knows how hard Naslund is working, and how much he wants to win.

Anyone who watched the play that resulted in Daniel Sedin’s overtime goal with five seconds left won’t be questioning his effort, except for maybe, “About that effort… where do you get it all from?”

When Dion Phaneuf got a penalty with 12 seconds left in the overtime period, I was mad. Before the next play even started, I thought there was a flaw with the NHL rules. What’s the point in getting a power play with such little time left? That’s no advantage.

Phanuef probably looked at the clock, saw time winding down, reached out, and stick-infracted to his heart’s delight. Why wouldn’t he? The Canucks would only be on the power play for 12 seconds. Who cares? Nothing’s going to happen. I guess we’ll go to a shootout.

That’s what I thought, anyway. Markus Naslund clearly had other plans. He thought that 12 seconds was ample time. Turns out, all the Canucks needed to score that game-winner was seven.

Danny got the goal, but Naslund made the big play. The face-off in the Flames’ zone wasn’t cleanly won, and it could have been anyone’s puck. But after a short scramble, Naslund made a diving effort to get the puck back to Mattias Ohlund at the point. Ohlund then put one through to the net, and Daniel Sedin managed to poke it in.

It wasn’t just that Naslund made a great play. It was that he made a great play with nine seconds left. It was a play that some players might have shrugged their shoulders on, knowing time was running down in overtime, and figuring that they’d take care of things in a shootout instead.

And that question about Naslund’s goal scoring? Yeah, he can score goals. He got his first of the season on the power play Saturday night, halfway into the second period. It was a goal Kiprusoff probably could have had, but Naslund deserves some credit.

 Streaking down the left wing, Naslund didn’t have much of a play. There was a Calgary defender in between him and Kiprusoff, and no Canuck to pass to.

But he sent a laser of a shot through the Flame player, and it beat Kiprusoff just inside the post. It was the sort of play that, if it had been last year, Naslund might have just continued on to the end boards, which probably resulted in a broken play.

The goal was important because last year he was criticized for not shooting as much.

Maybe it had to do with confidence, maybe it had to do with a change in the team mindset with a new coach, but whatever it was, it took away one of Naslund’s most dangerous weapons. He took just 222 shots on goal in the 2006-07 campaign, while the four years before that, he was getting up around 300 shots per year.

Will this year be different? Will Naslund’s shot of old be back? It just might. Against Calgary, he had a share of the team lead in shots with four. And his goal in the second period didn’t only tie the game, it demonstrated that he has his confidence back. It showed that even in Alain Vigneault’s defensive-minded game plan, Naslund can still pick which piece of twine he wants to hit and do it.

So about that third question: Can he captain the team? I think so.


4 – power play goals from the Canucks

5 – years since the Canucks have seen Keenan in a regular season game

300 – career assists for Morrison

286 – days (and counting) since Luongo has lost two in a row

32 – minutes before the Canucks took a penalty

The Canucks managed to capitalize on some chances that they just couldn’t on Friday versus San Jose.

Three goals in one period, the Sedins were in good form, and the Naslund-Morrison-Kesler line showed some flashy moves.

Not too bad, but coughing up a two-goal lead in the third period is a sure way to make coaches start wagging their fingers.

This game could have been in the bag, but the Canucks allowed the Flames to turn up the heat in the third and get back into it. For a defensive minded team like the Canucks, that’s a big no-no.

Fantastic. The power play single-handedly won them the game, as the Canucks got all their production from the PP, which went 4-for-7.

And penalty killing saved the game, as it killed a 5-on-3 in the second period and a 4-on-3 in overtime. It wasn’t perfect, letting in a goal in the third, but tonight’s performance pushed the PK to 12-for-13 on the season.

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