NHL: The Lonely Sedins

Matt HamiltonContributor IMarch 16, 2008

People are getting very nervous in Canuckland these days.

Sure, they're only two points out of the division lead, but they are only two points up on Nashville in ninth, with a game in hand.

So, where did things go wrong? How come this team is struggling so much down the stretch?

When a team struggles, it is never one thing that is wrong, but many things. For the 'Nucks, the biggest and most pressing problem is the Sedin twins, who seem to be playing like they want their “sister's” moniker back.

Not only are they not getting points, but they are playing like they have lost their confidence. They are getting pushed off the puck way too easily, even their trademark cycling has produced minimal scoring chances. And they can't seem to find chemistry with anyone who is put on their line.

Naslund doesn't work, he plays too much of a perimeter game, much like the Sedins, so all that ends up happening is some good passing and usually a shot from outside that is handled easily because neither the Sedin's or Naslund seem interested in crashing the net, looking for scoring chances.

Taylor Pyatt has the tools to succeed on the line, but it isn't working. He has great size, good hands, and is a smart player, but does not play like he's 6'4'' which is a problem when the Sedin's are being pushed around.

Alex Burrows is hot right now, but has neither the talent nor the smarts for be a first-line player, plus he forms an effective checking duo with Ryan Kesler and is more suited for the third line.

Players like Mason Raymond and Ryan Shannon have talent, but are soft, small players and the Sedin's need someone that will go into the tough area's, that will drive the net, and take the punishment. Those players are few and far between on the Canucks, especially of the first-line variety. But what about Matt Pettinger?

The player acquired for Matt Cooke at the trade deadline is having a poor season, only has four goals and doesn't seem to have the confidence around the net. But this is a guy who, in the previous two seasons with a talent starved Washington Capitals, had 36 goals in only 136 games due to injury. Project that over a full season, he'd have seasons of 23 and 21 goals respectively playing on the third line in Washington.

He's one the best skaters on the team, leads the team in hits most nights (just ask Jonathan Toews), and surely will drive to the net to get the dirty goals.

Just look at his first goal with the Canucks, where it looked like Nashville's Dan Ellis had saved it with his glove, but Pettinger didn't care, jammed his stick in there as he was getting cross checked to the ground and forced the puck into the net. He was getting that goal, save or no save.

Is that the answer to their problems? Maybe, maybe not. They still need more secondary scoring and need Naslund to play with more heart. He's not the Naslund of old, we have to succumb to that fact, but if you lower expectations, then Naslund can be an effective player. Sure, a 25 goal Naslund is not what the Canuck fan's expect, but will be a nice bonus if the Sedin's pick up their play.

Of course, scoring isn't the only problem. It would be a real nice bonus if the defensive corps could stay healthy. When healthy, they are not spectacular, but incredibly solid. But asking Sami Salo to stay healthy is like asking Lindsay Lohan to stay sober, you know it's not going to happen but you just hope it doesn't last too long.

Now, shoring up these problems does not guarantee wins or a playoff spot, but it sure helps. One a positive note, the one thing they don't have to worry about it goaltending. Bobby Lou will try and drag the 'Nucks into the playoffs, but the problem with having all your eggs in one basket, if you drop the basket, you're screwed. Let's hope they can learn to spread the eggs around.