Vrbata: Radim-ing the Sedins

On Saturday the Canucks played one of their best and most thrilling games so far, an overtime win which they almost gave up (and which they could have won 2-0) when the Montreal Canadiens scored two goals to tie up the game in the latter half of the third period.

But the Canucks came back to win the game in overtime, and Daniel Sedin’s overtime goal (see below ) was – putting all objectivity aside – beautiful. The play started with Henrik in the Canucks’ own end, battling Tomas Plekanec in a corner for the puck and skating it all the way down the ice and into the Canadiens’ end before passing the puck to Daniel, who proceeded to put it over Carey Price’s right shoulder.

Despite the goal (which was a collective effort on the Sedins part) and a big win against what is currently one of the best teams in the league, the Sedins still think they could have been better.

“Our line can play better. We really should have won this game after 60 minutes,” Henrik Sedin told CBC after the game on Thursday against Montreal.

After all, the Canucks still have yet to face some of their toughest competition. The real test comes now, in November, as they face the three Californian teams (San Jose, LA and Anaheim) as well as other dangerous teams such as Chicago and Nashville.

But even though it is only 10 games into the season (three of which were quite ugly: 4-2, 6-3, and 7-3 losses), and the Canucks have yet to face some of what will be their toughest opponents, the Sedins and linemate Radim Vrbata have been very successful through the first 10 games of the season, something that should be recognized and celebrated.

“When their game’s not a good game it’s still not a bad game,” Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins told CBC after the game against Montreal. “Maybe it wasn’t quite to their standards but it was a pretty good game.”

Through 10 games the top line of the Sedins and Vrbata have combined for 35 points, Henrik with four goals and 12 points, Daniel with three goals and 12 points and Vrbata with five goals and 11 points. While last season the Sedins had stretches of games without any points, at least one of these three players has notched at least one point in each game so far.

Vrbata is the best winger the Sedins have played with in a while, a step (or several steps) up from Alex Burrows. While Burrows plays with a hard work ethic, and had undeniable success playing on the Canucks’ top line with the Sedins for a few seasons, Vrbata is a world class player who might better serve as a consistent and reliable goal scorer who fits the missing spot in the puzzle that has been the top line.

“The reason I came here was that I thought they played a similar style that I do and I thought it could work. Since the first day we seem to be on the same page,” Vrbata told The Vancouver Sun early in the season about playing with the Sedins.

“They don’t try to beat the defenders one on one or try to overpower somebody. They like to use short passes and get open for each other, and that’s the way I like to play.”

To add to all of that, the Canucks’ once woeful powerplay is now ranked sixth in the NHL, largely because of the Canucks’ first powerplay unit, which consists of the Sedins, Vrbata, Linden Vey, and Alex Edler (four forwards and one defender). These players account for eight of the Canucks’ nine powerplay goals, one of which can be seen below. Vey, in his second NHL season, has the most powerplay goals on the Canucks with three, all of which have resulted from being on the receiving end of passes from the Sedins and Vrbata.

Tonight the Canucks face the Edmonton Oilers, who the Sedins and Vrbata have a combined 13 points against in two games this season.

“The problem is, those two guys are thinking out of one brain,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins told the Edmonton Journal about the Sedins prior to today’s game. But let’s not forget the other half of the equation: the Sedins + Vrbata = success.