Strong Canucks, Mild Sundin
For those who used to watch Mats Sundin regularly compete in playoff hockey for the Maple Leafs, this was nothing like it used to be.
|THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|Now is the time for Sundin to really deliver in Vancouver.|
Of course, that was five years ago. So the fact that in his first playoff game Wednesday night as a member of the Vancouver Canucks the former Leaf captain was all but invisible, well, maybe you chalk that one up to the passage of time.
Sundin played 15 minutes and 53 seconds, had two shots and at best one quality scoring chance. The Canucks were impressive in grinding out a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in the opener of their best-of-seven series, riding the strong netminding of Roberto Luongo and excellent penalty killing to the victory.
Sundin, meanwhile, has now gone 14 games without a goal. Even though the top Vancouver line of the Sedin twins with Alexandre Burrows attracted the No. 1 Blues defensive pair of Barret Jackman and Roman Polak most of the night, along with checking centre Jay McClement, Sundin and his linemates, Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra, weren't able to capitalize against the other St. Louis forward and defensive units.
That alone, of course, is a big change for Sundin. For years as a Leaf, he would always attract the most difficult checkers. Now, it's the Sedins who do, which theoretically should open up more room for Sundin and his linemates. That didn't happen in Game 1, although Demitra did set up a first period goal by Daniel Sedin.
Based on Wednesday night, the Canucks may not need much in the way of contributions from Sundin to beat the determined but youthful Blues. But to get far in these playoffs they will, and right now he doesn't look a great deal different than he did in January, still seemingly struggling to get his timing and a little slow afoot. He just doesn't look anything like the player he was as recently as last year, as if the months of indecision about playing at all this season compromised his once impressive skill set.
|Damien is taking your questions and questions throughout the NHL playoffs and will publish a daily selection in this space. Click here to submit a question or comment and check the blog daily for answers.|
Wednesday night was his 84th playoff game, by far the most of any Vancouver player, so that experience should allow him to at the very least be a steadying influence. But the Canucks paid him a lot of money to do more than that, and they're still waiting.