Only success will silence Sedins' critics
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Had you told someone before the playoffs began that the powerhouse Vancouver Canucks would reach the Western Conference finals with the Sedin twins a combined minus-16 through two rounds, you likely would have been asked whether you were smoking some funny stuff.
And then if you told them Henrik Sedin would put up only one assist through a seven-game stretch between the first and second rounds, and brother Daniel Sedin -- a 41-goal scorer this season -- would go six straight playoff games without a goal, well, you'd likely be told you were crazy.
It speaks to the depth of the Presidents' Trophy winners that they survived the struggles of their terrific star twins and did not miss a beat in their quest for the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Eventually, however, it's going to catch up with you. Which is why the outstanding third period delivered by the twins in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, including Henrik's game winner, bodes well for the Canucks.
The San Jose Sharks are the most talented and formidable team the Canucks will face in these playoffs. So Vancouver needs the twins on board to beat San Jose.
"I'm extremely confident in them," Canucks GM Mike Gillis told ESPN.com on Tuesday.
What people have to realize is the twins get the kind of defensive attention no other player on this team does, Gillis explained.
"You have to take what you're given in this game, and sometimes you're not given a whole lot," Gillis said. "In a playoff series, I think it's easier for top defensive players to have a bigger impact. They [the Sedins] played against [Shea] Weber and [Ryan] Suter last round, and they're very good defensemen. And they played against [Duncan] Keith and [Brent] Seabrook before that. It's tough to generate offense when you're playing in those kinds of games."
While the twins were mostly neutralized last round, Ryan Kesler emerged as the offensive catalyst.
"That's why you have a team," Gillis said. "You take advantage of matchups. But we have total faith in Henrik and Daniel. They've been nothing but incredible professionals and incredible people for us. Their compete level is high, so we're very happy."
If Roberto Luongo was the whipping boy against Chicago, the twins spared their goalie the lashings in the second round, coming under fire from fans and media. It was fitting in that sense that, on Tuesday, Luongo sat between the twins at the podium for their media availability. No other player is better positioned to comment on what it's like to take heat in this hockey-crazed town than Luongo, pulled twice in the first round against Chicago before delivering in Game 7.
And if it's true that you truly find out a person's character in bad times, Luongo's account of how the twins handled the criticism says it all about the Swedish stars.
"They were great," Luongo said. "They always seem like they're even-keeled, no matter what's going on. Always in a good mood. Great guys to be around. It's nice to see that demeanor in the locker room because it's important. You don't want guys moping around because it tends to bring other guys down. They seem unaffected by it, which is a great way to handle it." Really, no one should be surprised. The story of the Sedins and their arrival in the NHL with the Canucks was one of hardship. They were mocked by some in the early years -- called the sisters -- and their perseverance through those tough times made them battle-tested for whatever would come later in their careers.
The criticism in these playoffs? Water off a duck's back, the twins insisted.
"We've all gone through the bad things about playing in a market like this, all the pressure, the media coverage, the criticism," team captain Henrik said Tuesday. "I think this year we've taken another step in the way that we don't really care what the outside says. It's about the guys in the dressing room. That feeling is a big difference, I feel, from before where the outside pressure has been tough to bear on your shoulders.
"Like I said, this year everyone has been through it, we know how to handle it and that's a good feeling to have."
But the criticism leveled at the twins irks their teammates much more. "Since I've been here, there has been so much criticism of both of them, and I don't understand where it comes from or why?" linemate Alex Burrows said Tuesday. "Henrik led the league in scoring last year and was the Hart trophy winner. Danny is a [Hart] candidate this year and will probably win it; led the league in scoring. They don't cheat offensively, they're great leaders, great role models for people in the city, they donate a lot of money to charity in the province of British Columbia. And they're great teammates and great persons. So I don't know where that comes from."
Games such as Sunday night's are the only remedy for the twins, and their track record suggests there's more of those goodies to come. If there isn't? Oh, they'll hear about it.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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