And thus it ends, the most anticlimatic ending to a division race in the history of the National Hockey League, with an outcome as predictable as any James Bond film.
The Canucks were outscored by Colorado in the first period of Wednesday’s game 2-0, but outchanced Colorado 9-4, and never really looked back from there, pulling together with a three-goal third and beating the hapless Avalanche 4-2.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin created some shots early, but it was Erik Johnson’s screened shot from the point and Matt Duchene’s bizzare deflection off of Sami Salo’s skate that beat Cory Schnieder. From there on out, the scoring was all Vancouver. Maxim Lapierre, Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin all beat Brian Elliot before Henrik shot one the length of the ice for an empty net which sealed the Canucks’ third straight Northwest Division title and their fifth in seven seasons, still with ten games remaining in the campaign.
With two assists, Daniel Sedin moves six points up on Steven Stamkos for the league lead in points, and, as the focus for the Canucks will shift on securing the President’s Trophy for the first time in history, some hardware for Daniel Sedin in the form of an Art Ross Trophy would put Henrik and Daniel in some very elusive company.
Only a handful of times have players on the same team won the NHL’s scoring title in back-to-back seasons, and the company is impressive. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did it twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the late 90s. Before that, it was Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito did it twice with the Boston Bruins in the early 70s. On that list are also Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau and Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion along with Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe. In the pre-Art Ross days the feat was accomplished by Milt Schmidt and Bill Cowley of the Bruins and Joe Malone and Newsy Lalonde of the Montreal Canadiens.
What do all the members of that list have in common? Well, other than Jagr, they are all members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A few other Canucks had strong games. Dan Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff played top minutes and we’re each a plus-2 at full strength with a plus-23 differential in shot attempts. After two unlucky goals against early on, Cory Schnieder remained solid, the most impressive of which came with the team nursing a one-goal lead in the third off of Mark Olver, who was set up by Duchene off a turnover.
The game comes at a cost for the Canucks. Manny Malhotra, the team’s top defensive player, was taken to hospital after taking a puck to the right eye in the third period that reportedly resulted in bleeding inside the eye. His condition will be updated later today.
Charron’s Three Stars
1: Henrik Sedin
2: Cory Schnieder
3: Dan Hamhuis