Canucks coach Willie Desjardins not about to alter four-line approach


Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat  celebrates his 2nd period goal with Ronalds Kenins, 41, against the Calgary Flame.

Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat celebrates his 2nd period goal with Ronalds Kenins, 41, against the Calgary Flame.

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

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VANCOUVER - Somewhere between John Tortorella’s skate-’em-til-they-drop philosophy and Willie Desjardins’ keep-them-fresh mantra, there is probably a happy medium for Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

It’s likely well north of what they logged in the Vancouver Canucks' series-opening 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.

The Sedins’ relatively light minutes were under the microscope Thursday, when Desjardins was asked why he didn’t ride the twins a little harder in Game 1.

Daniel, in particular, saw his ice time cut. He played just 16:14, a full two minutes and change less than the 18:21 he averaged during the regular season. Henrik, at 17:29, was just over a minute under his average of 18:36 this season.

Desjardins acknowledged that in hindsight he perhaps should have found an extra minute or two for the Sedins, but also said the team is going to stick with what worked during the regular season.

In other words, the Canucks are going to roll four lines.

“A little bit is just the specialty teams,” he said of the diminished ice time for the twins, who each had 3:45 of power play time in Game 1. “I think the other thing was the (Bo) Horvat line was playing good. They got caught for the last one (Calgary’s winning goal) but they got our first goal.

“I think all our lines are playing pretty good and we play our best when we are fresh. Maybe they should have had a couple of more minutes, it probably wouldn’t have hurt, but there were times this season where they had those minutes, we won, and everything was great. . .They are going to be fresh for the next game and maybe that will pay off.”

The flip side of that, of course, is that with three more losses in this series they’ll be fresh for the summer.

Desjardins was asked if he perhaps had to modify his philosophy during the playoffs and ride his top forwards a little harder, even if that at times means shortening his bench.

He defended his approach, while emphasizing that the team is intent on winning each game and not employing some kind of rope-a-dope style in the hope of wearing down the opposition.

“We play every game to win that game,” he said. “That’s our focus. If we burn up our energy, then we’ll worry about that the next game. It’s not that we don’t play to win that game.

“At the same time, the Sedins play their best when they are fresh. If they are not fresh they won’t be as successful. I think if you ask them they’ll say the same thing. I think their minutes were okay. Maybe a couple more or one more wouldn’t have made any difference. They had a good game, they were a good line and maybe we should have had them out there for one more draw.”

The Sedins, to the surprise of absolutely no one, backed their coach.

“We wouldn’t be standing here talking about it if we had won,” Henrik said. “We would have been standing here saying. ‘we’re still fresh, they played a lot of minutes and can they keep up with us.’ So here we are.”

Earlier, Henrik drew chuckles from the assembled media when he said: “We have always said we want to play 25 minutes. We did it last year and it didn’t work, so now we are standing here talking about us playing too little.”

Last year, of course, the Sedins played a lot -- nearly 21 minutes a night -- under Tortorella and their production, as well as the team’s, plummeted.

What bothered some about Game 1 was the fact Daniel’s even-strength ice time was just 12:27. Only three Vancouver forwards -- Alex Burrows, Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson -- had less than that. And remember, Daniel led the team this season with 76 points.

“I think you always want to play more, but this has made us successful the whole year,” Daniel said after Thursday’s practice at UBC. “We have been rolling four lines, like I said. I like it and I think you should stick with what has worked in the past. So that is not a problem for me.”

The Flames, on the other hand, are riding their top players.

Centre Sean Monahan topped 20 minutes in Game 1 and fellow forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Backlund all played more than the Sedins.

And Calgary’s top three defencemen all played monster minutes. Dennis Wideman logged 30:03, Kris Russell had 29:07 and T.J. Brodie played 26:05. Alex Edler led the Canucks in ice time with 22:11.

The Canucks like to think those big minutes being played by Wideman, Russell and Brodie will take their toll as the series progresses.

“It should if we play the right way, get pucks deep and make sure we hit them every chance we get,” Daniel said. “It is going to pay off in the end. Maybe not in the first three or four games, but later on.”;

Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat  celebrates his 2nd period goal with Ronalds Kenins, 41, against the Calgary Flame.

Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat celebrates his 2nd period goal with Ronalds Kenins, 41, against the Calgary Flame.

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

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