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Twenty Great Games: Henrik Sedin, April 10, 2010

Twenty Great Games is a PITB feature that will run through the month of December, examining the 20 greatest single-game Canuck performances of the last 15 years. Today: Henrik Sedin wins the Art Ross trophy.
Hank and Dank
Hank and Dank

Twenty Great Games is a PITB feature that will run through the month of December, examining the 20 greatest single-game Canuck performances of the last 15 years. Today: Henrik Sedin wins the Art Ross trophy.

April 10, 2010 - VANCOUVER

Few would ever accuse Daniel or Henrik Sedin of playing for themselves. But there was this one time.

Henrik Sedin entered the final game of the 2009-10 regular season with a chance to win the Art Ross trophy as the league's top scorer. No one could have predicted it. It was supposed to be Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. But as Game 82 began, Henrik boasted a career-high 108 points, one back of Ovechkin with Sidney Crosby nipping at their heels. It was going to take one Hell of a game from the future Canucks' captain (Roberto Luongo still wore the "C" on his mask at this point) to outpace the NHL's two brightest stars. And it was going to take a somewhat selfish game.

"I can’t really do anything about what Ovechkin does," Henrik would say after the game. "He’s one of those players who can get five points a night.”

Henrik knew that Ovechkin and Crosby were capable of, and he knew what it required of him in response. He was going to have to do something he'd never really been known to do: pad his stats.

It didn't exactly jibe with Henrik's team-first approach, as Alain Vigneault noted: “If he does win it, great. And if he doesn’t, if you’d ask him, I think the most important thing for him is the team winning and the team having a good playoff run.”

Fortunately, the Canucks had already sewn up the Northwest division title, and with it, a playoff spot. The season's final game, a visit from the Calgary Flames, would have zero impact on the standings. And so, with the team's needs met and a career moment within reach, Henrik went to work.

He wasn't flying solo, of course. He never is with brother Daniel on his left side, and the rest of the team was equally focused on making sure the eldest Sedin got his touches. Even coach Alain Vigneault played along, giving Henrik 25:24 of icetime, more than six minutes his season average.

Vigneault had been all in on Henrik's Art Ross chase for awhile. Most of the time, coaches rest their star players as the postseason approaches. Henrik's icetime spiked. After averaging under twenty minutes all year, Henrik played 22 and a half minutes in each of the three games leading up to this one. He wanted it for Henrik.

Henrik wanted it more, of course. He needed points and he got them, posting four assists to race out in front for good. You can watch the whole game here:

A lot has changed in five years. It's not just that Roberto Luongo is no longer the captain or even a Canuck. Rick Rypien opens the scoring after being set up by Matt Pettinger and Steve Bernier. The defensive pairing on the ice for Vancouver: Christian Ehrhoff and Anrew Alberts. Not a single Canuck on the ice for this goal still plays for this team. 

Henrik Sedin's first point comes, as you might expect, on an incredible passing play -- one that's been mostly forgotten. That's forgiveable, considering the goals that follow it. 

Kevin Bieksa finishes the play, but like so many Canuck defencemen before him, he's really just the toe after the Sedins' refreshing tic-tac. The Sedins dismantle the Flames' zone coverage on the rush like a kid picking the wings off a fly. It looks downright effortless, as Daniel gains the zone, drops for Henrik, takes a return pass, then finds Bieksa wide open in the slot.

A lot of people would go on to call this a Daniel Sedin game. After all, he's the one who registers the hat trick. But the important thing to remember is that Daniel is playing for his brother here, a motivation that's never clearer than on the Canucks' second goal, and his first.

Look at Daniel Sedin go. After Henrik effortlessly hits him in stride with a pass that spans the neutral zone from wall to wall, Daniel shocks Jay Bouwmeester with a sudden power move to the outside.

This isn't his game. Serious fans can probably count on one hand the times that Daniel has gone to the net this aggressively. Even a skilled defenceman like Jay Bouwmeester, who at that time was seeing more of the Sedins than almost any other player, doesn't even consider the possibility that Daniel's about to take him wide. But with his older brother on the verge of the scoring title, Daniel finds another gear and puts Henrik on top. This goal is brotherly love personified.

I'll tell you who else seemed committed to helping Henrik: Miikka Kiprusoff. Or at least it seemed that way at times, especially on Daniel's second goal of the night, a two-on-one with Henrik that ends precisely how you'd expect.

Kiprusoff appears to be the only one in the building who didn't know Daniel would be getting this puck.

But the Sedins weren't done there. Just twenty seconds later, they connected again for the NHL's goal of the year, not to mention the greatest regular-season goal in Canucks history:

What a moment. Hats are hitting the ice. The fans are chanting "MVP!" Daniel smiles wider than we've ever seen. And when Henrik arrives at the hockey hug, his teammates can hardly contain themselves, they're so happy for him.

Henrik, of course, tried to deflect all the attention. “Daniel made some unbelievable plays and Burr (Alex Burrows) did, too, and they really opened up things for me,” he said after the game. “I’m proud of what our team did and what our line did. I’m happy I’ve done what I’ve done."

Burrows, on the other hand, threw it right back to Henrik.

“Some of those passes, through the leg or a cross-ice saucer seven feet in the air and it lands perfectly, that’s the kind of player he is,” Alex Burrows said after the game. “The way he was playing with confidence and wanted the puck and wanted to make plays out there, it was a special night."