Of all the things that could potentially have gone wrong for the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup final, the one that almost no one could foresee was how the NHL's highest-scoring team would evolve into The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight.
Yes, Boston Bruins' goaltender Tim Thomas has been exceptional in these finals, limiting the Canucks to only eight goals in six games, including Monday night's 5-2 victory. Those are historically exceptional goaltending statistics, ones that put him in the driver's seat for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player. But it's more than just Thomas's strong work that's keeping Vancouver off the score sheet.
Suddenly, the three players in the Canucks lineup who cracked the top 15 - scoring champion Daniel Sedin, his twin brother, Henrik, and the 41-goal man Ryan Kesler - are coming up completely and utterly empty in this series, or they were until Henrik finally broke Thomas's shutout bid in the third period of Monday night's game.
On average, the Sedins produce in virtually 75 per cent of their games in the regular season. That's what they do - score with metronome-like efficiency. Consider Henrik. This year, only three times in the 82-game season did he go as many as three games without recording a point. Once was in mid-January, the other at the end of February, into early March. One other time, he went two games without a point (Nov. 20-21). And that was it. When he was shut out one night, he'd come back and score the next.
So for Henrik Sedin to go six games without a point until finally converting Monday night is extraordinary. For brother Daniel to have just three points in six games - and only one goal - is unprecedented.
But two things are happening here.
One is they're misfiring on chances that they usually convert. Early in Monday's game, defenceman Kevin Bieksa had the same play teed up that resulted in Max Lapierre's winning goal Friday, a 1-0 victory. He took a shot deliberately wide off the end boards and it came to Henrik Sedin. But the puck hopped on the Swede at the last minute, skipping over his stick, and the Bruins jumped back into the attack.
Minutes later, the Canucks messed up another good chance, a pass from the point that was coming through to Alex Burrows that Daniel Sedin tipped just at the last second, keeping Burrows from a tap-in goal.
Kesler? Everyone believes he will reveal the extent of the leg injury that he suffered in the San Jose Sharks series Wednesday night, when all is said and done. But even if his legs are keeping him from getting to the net, he's had trouble with his hands in tight, too - not converting close-in chances that would normally be in the back of the net for him.
The second factor is how Bruins coach Claude Julien has resolutely matched Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg against the Sedin twins in this series - and Chara especially has made them both pay a physical price. At different times, Henrik has tried to embellish the contact to get a call - and instead, he received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for his troubles. With Patrice Bergeron, one of the NHL's most effective defensive centres, also riding herd on Henrik Sedin, it has frustrated them to the point where they seem distracted on the ice. Instead of pushing through, they're looking for help from the referees. It's even worse than the way the Nashville Predators' Shea Weber and Ryan Suter frustrated them in the second round.
Up until this year, the fewest goals that a winning team has ever scored in a seven-game Stanley Cup final was nine, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That came in 1945, when the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. Toronto was shut out twice and won a pair of 1-0 decisions.
The good news is that, with Game 7 on the horizon, Vancouver can still win the Stanley Cup and even earn a place in the NHL record book at the same time. But it wouldn't hurt to have a little more from the twins, or Kesler. Maybe bearing down harder around the net would be a good place to start.Report Typo/Error