If there’s one thing we can take away from this playoff run, win or lose, it’s that Mikael Samuelsson held up his end of the bargain. The former Red Wing who in just four playoff appearances had 69 career playoff games played has been a force for the Canucks and has scored some clutch goals to either keep the Canucks alive, or spark them to something better, both in the regular season and now the post season where it matters most.
Last night after getting put with the Sedins, Samuelsson scored a huge goal to tie the game up and the goal gave him his fifth of this playoffs and sixth point in the series. Now that does a couple things. That sets new personal bests for Samuelsson in goals scored in a series, and it ties his career high of points in a series which he set back in 2007 when the Red Wings played the Ducks in the Western Conference Final. Samuelsson leads the Canucks in playoff goals this season and is tied with Daniel for the most points with six.
It looks like Samuelsson’s nine years of play in the NHL, and his last four trips to the NHL playoffs are starting to pay off on more than just the scoresheet though. Earlier in the season, in an attempt to stir up the Sedins, Vigneault bumped Burrows off the top line and let Samuelsson take a spin with the Twins. It worked wonders as it not only lead to Samuelsson’s huge goal outburst but it lifted the Sedins out of their funk. Last night in a desperate attempt to get the Sedins some traction, Vigneault went back to juggling things as badly as he was juggling back in 06-07 and it worked. Samuelsson’s huge goal to tie the game not only sparked the team but it seemed to get the Sedins re-energized and back to playing their game.
The Canucks have 542 playoff games played throughout the roster, but of those games 358 belong to seven players (Demitra, Samuelsson, Salo, Henrik, Daniel and Ehrhoff). Of those players, only Samuelsson’s gone past the second round and it looks like his effect is rubbing off. Samuelsson’s been in back-to-back cup finals, he’s grown the most viking-like of playoff beards, and he’s seen almost everything you could expect in the post season. He knows what it’s like to be on the brink of being eliminated and winning, he also knows what it’s like to be on the brink and lose. It’s just that reason which allows him to be a calming influence on the ice despite the desperation present in the play.
Samuelsson’s leading the Canucks goes far past the offensive numbers he puts up. He’s able to score those clutch goals because it’s going to take a lot more to rattle him, there’s nothing he hasn’t seen. Salo’s a calming influence on the blue-line, Henrik and Daniel have a lot to learn even though they both went into the first round with over 50 playoff games played, and Ehrhoff played with the Sharks, enough said. Demitra proved to us last night that he’s still got some of that “clutch” left in him and together the vets have to lead this team. Samuelsson knows what it takes to not only get out of the first round, but to get to the final round. His role and presence is going to go a long way to helping this team on the ice, in the dressing room, and throughout the post season.