– The Hart Trophy is still a long way from being decided, but Vancouver Canucks
forward Daniel Sedin
is doing his best to keep it in the family.
In a tight-checking, fast-paced, low-scoring game on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena, it was Daniel's two goals - his 39th and 40th - that led the Canucks to a 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in a potential Western Conference playoff matchup.
Henrik Sedin, last season's MVP, assisted on both of his brother's goals, giving him 70 assists and 88 points - but this year, it's his identical twin who's being talked about most for Hart consideration as the regular season winds down.
Daniel Sedin's season line now reads 40 goals, 55 assists, a League-leading 95 points and a plus-27 rating.
After witnessing the birth of his daughter on Monday evening, Daniel didn't miss a game and joined the Canucks in Detroit before leading them to the narrow victory.
Daniel said he's not concerned about evening the trophy count with his twin.
"I was really happy for him last year and I'm sure he'd be happy for me this year, but we can't start thinking about those kinds of things," he said. "It's going to ruin our game and we're not here to win the scoring title. We're here to go a long ways (in the playoffs)."
Not surprisingly, Henrik Sedin's response was almost identical.
"We haven't really thought about it," he said. "I don't think he's put a lot of thought into the scoring race or anything. If you start thinking about scoring goals, it's usually going to end up in the other net. That's not a priority for him."
What is a priority is making a deep run in the playoffs -- and capping it with a Stanley Cup parade in June. A comparison was made to Peyton Manning and Eli Manning both winning Super Bowl MVPs, but Daniel Sedin didn't bite.
"I'd like to win the Stanley Cup first," he said. "That's the one thing that would be very special. We've got a long way to go, but I like this team and we've been really focused on winning and playing the right way and being accountable to each other. If we can keep doing that I think we can do something special."
It's hard to argue when you consider how well the Canucks (48-17-9) played against a top team. After being outshot 11-5 in a sluggish first period, Vancouver dominated the second by outshooting the Red Wings 20-12 and going up 1-0 on Daniel's first goal at 6:31. After being left alone behind the net, he skated to the left of goalie Jimmy Howard and threw a shot toward the low slot that bounced off Nicklas Lidstrom's left skate and snuck through the pads.
His second goal, at 8:47 of the third, came off a one-timer from the right circle past a sprawled and stickless Howard for a power-play marker to put the Canucks up 2-0. Just 2:09 later, Jiri Hudler got the Red Wings (43-22-9) back in the game by scoring his ninth goal of the season on a Detroit power play, banging home a rebound.
The Red Wings put on some late pressure but couldn't solve Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo - who was just as impressive as the Sedins while stopping 39 of 40 shots. The win means both teams finished with two wins in the season series - which included two high-scoring games and two 2-1 finishes, with each team winning one of each kind.
"It's rare that you see shootouts in playoff games," Luongo said, referring to high-scoring contests rather than tiebreakers -- which aren't used in the postseason. "It's always going to be checking affairs, and this game had that feeling tonight. We're not always going to score five or six goals, and when we don't we want to make sure we're able to win games 2-1."
The Red Wings feel likewise.
Despite dropping their second home game in a row, they gave the Canucks a battle without dressing injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.
Howard played well after being pulled in the second period of a 5-4 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. He stopped 31 of 33 shots against the high-powered Canucks after allowing four goals on just 15 shots against the Penguins.
"You're going to hit bumps in the road across the course of the season - especially a season like ours," Howard said. "It's a grind. I'm thankful that I have a coach and management that have the confidence to put me right back in there and let me show how mentally tough I am."
He'll have to be even tougher without veteran backup and sounding board Chris Osgood around for the next few weeks. Osgood (sports hernia surgery) was placed on long term injured reserve before the game and won't be eligible to return until April 8 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"He's a great friend to everyone in this room," Howard said. "He's missed in this dressing room. He's always a phone call away. He always picks up no matter what time of the night it is - he'll always pick up. I miss having him to my right (in the locker room)."
Meanwhile, the Central Division leaders are now 10 points behind Vancouver in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference.
"That's good for sure," Henrik Sedin said. "I think we all know math a little bit. If we win the games we want to win, that's kind of tough for other teams to catch up. "
It also means they'll likely be labeled the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup, which is a rare subject that splits the Sedins.
"If you're going to end up winning this conference and maybe the Presidents' Trophy, too, I think we should be favorites," Daniel said. "That's not a bad thing. If we're this good through 82 games, we should be fine in the playoffs too."
Henrik was more cautiously optimistic about winning the first Cup in the franchise's 41-year history.
"It looks like we're going to be in a good spot," he said. "We're one of the teams. We can't see ourselves as the big favorites. I don't think anyone can do that. We know we have a chance and we have the team to get there."