Mikael Samuelsson re-enacts the final scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Mikael Samuelsson had an interesting year. Plagued most of the season with sports hernia and muscle tightness in his leg that restricted his movement and slowed his skating, he looked like a shell of the man that made Mike Gillis look like a genius for signing him by scoring 30 goals in his first season in Vancouver. After a strong playoffs in which he scored six goals in seven games bolstered the hopes of Vancouver fans, Samuelsson’s foll0w-up season was wildly inconsistent. He vacillating between excellent, puck possession shifts and terrible giveaways, often in the same game. He bounced around the lineup, from the first to the fourth line, with regularity, never quite finding a permanent home. Each shift seems like a punishment or a reward for the one that preceded it.

And still, while the 18 goals he put up in 2010-11 were 12 less than his career year in 2009-10, they were consistent with his career averages. Furthermore, the 50 points he tallied were only three away from last year’s numbers. In short, while the goals weren’t as frequent, Mikael Samuelsson still had a solid statistical year. And, while almost every goal in this series is followed by a comment from the play-by-play team about his lack of production or season-long slump, Samuelsson’s contributions were actually quite consistent. They became even more apparent late in the postseason, when the Canucks lost him to surgery for the aforementioned sports hernia, losing their powerplay quarterback, one of their top snipers, and the Sedins’ backup linemate in the process. Samuelsson wasn’t a perfect fit anywhere, but he could be a serviceable fit anywhere, and that’s got to count for something.

As the next season approaches, the enigmatic Samuelsson had been largely forgotten as a top six option, but 18 goals and 50 points is nothing to sneeze at, especially when the average NHL first liner puts up only 60 points. Samuelsson is an impact player wherever in the Canucks lineup he plays. Let every goal he scored in 2010-11 remind you of that.

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1 Oct. 17 vs the Carolina Hurricanes

Mikael Samuelsson’s first goal of the season is the result of a surprisingly pretty bit of vision and passing by Tanner Glass, who ensures that he’s the only person to notice Samuelsson coming out of the box by doing a triple salchow with the puck at the side of the net. Once everyone is good and distracted, Glass moves the puck across the crease and Samuelsson buries it.

2 Nov. 6 vs the Detroit Red Wings

Raise your hand if you remember Tanner Glass and Mikael Samuelsson being a dynamite one-two combo? Anybody? Yeah, me neither. But here they are again, hooking up for a big goal versus the Red Wings in one of the best games of the season, as Samuelsson tips a Tanner Glass shot from the half-wall past Jimmy Howard. If you’re wondering why Alain Vigneault didn’t recognize the second coming of the West Coast Express on his fourth line, it’s worth noting that Mikael Samuelsson is playing with Tanner Glass as a punishment.

3 Nov. 15 vs the Buffalo Sabres

Samuelsson’s third goal of the season comes when he acts as the finisher on a fine bit of Wizardous Sedinerie in Buffalo. There’s a lot to like about this clip: the Sedins’ passing play, for one, which culminates in Daniel Sedin having the soundness of mind to pass around Steve Montador before he centers it to Samuelsson. And if that’s not your thing, there’s plenty to love about Samuelsson’s “Dad dancing while he chaperones the prom” goal celebration.

4 Nov. 20 vs the Chicago Blackhawks

The lone goal the Canucks would score in the Voldemort game goes to Samuelsson, but Ryan Kesler does all the legwork here. After making a nifty move to step around Niklas Hjalmarsson, Kesler freezes Corey Crawford with a wrist shot. The rebound comes to Samuelsson at the side of the net, where he moves it to the forehand and buries it into the open net. Worth noting that this is the third goal in a row to be suggested as the end of Samuelsson’s slow start to the season.

5 Nov. 26 vs the San Jose Sharks

Seriously, were these guys roommates or something? Again, it’s Samuelsson and Glass, this time on a 2-on-1. After Glass blocks a shot to stop the Sharks’ pressure, he dishes to Samuelsson and then streaks to the goal. Samuelsson keeps the entire time, duping Niclas Wallin into stepping aside by faking a slapshot. Glass and his man cross Antti Niemi’s line of vision at the exact moment Wallin steps aside, leaving Samuelsson an undefended shot at a perfectly screened goaltender. He makes no mistake. Heady play from a skilled player.

6 Nov. 26 vs the San Jose Sharks

Not to be outdone by Niclas Wallin’s generous matador act, Dan Boyle goes one step further and actually passes Samuelsson the puck. Seriously, you’d think Boyle was Henrik Sedin — this pass is flat on the ice and tape-to-tape. Samuelsson takes full advantage of Boyle’s error, beating Niemi high glove for his second goal of the night.

7 Dec. 22 vs the Detroit Red Wings

Samuelsson, a former member of Borg, always seems to get up when playing the Wings, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he breaks a nine-game goalless drought against his previous team. The primary assist here goes to Henrik Sedin, but Raffi Torres deserves plenty of credit as well. It’s his beeline to the net that opens up the passing lane, and it’s his screen that prevents Jimmy Howard from having a chance on this shot.

8 Dec. 26 vs the Edmonton Oilers

This goal comes on another great play by Raffi Torres, as he makes an unexpected, brilliant pass through the zone to find Samuelsson in front of the net. Torres shows impeccable vision here, taking a quick glance as he waits for the puck to come around the boards and land on his stick. When it does, he doesn’t even raise his head. He just whips it across to where he assumes Samuelsson will be and stands perfectly still, confident his setup will result in a goal. Luckily, it does.

9 Jan. 24 vs the Dallas Stars

It’s a lengthy period of time before Samuelsson scores again — this is his first goal in 15 games — but he shows he’s still got it with this seeing-eye shot. After being fed by Ryan Kesler, Samuelsson goes top corner on Kari Lehtonen, punching the water bottle off the top of the net. The talk following the goal, as usual, is about how long it’s been since Samuelsson last scored.

10 Feb. 1 vs the Dallas Stars

What’s the exact opposite of Canuck killers? Canuck vitamins? That’s what Dallas was last season, and it’s no wonder that an incredible productive February begins with a goal versus the Stars. Samuelsson beats Lehtonen here with effectively the exact same shot he beat him with last game. It’s tough to blame Lehtonen, though. Both shots were perfectly placed.

11 Feb. 4 vs the Chicago Blackhawks

Samuelsson notches another powerplay goal here, this time on a one-timer from the point. If you’re wondering, the sudden upswing in powerplay goals is the result of Samuelsson’s promotion to the top powerplay unit following Alex Edler’s back surgery. The next time someone understates the value of top powerplay time on production, point them to Mikael Samuelsson’s nine-goal February, which comes on the heels of Alex Edler’s six-goal January.

12 Feb. 7 vs the Ottawa Senators

At the end of this play, Ryan Kesler points to the bench to acknowledge Jannik Hansen, who beat Canucks’ equipment manager Patty O’Neill to replaced Kesler’s broken stick, which came apart as the Canucks’ exited their own zone. After kicking the puck to Mason Raymond, Kesler’s collects a new stick from Hansen at the bench and follows up with the play. Raymond finds him on his way to the net, and Kesler centers to Mikael Samuelsson for the goal.

13 Feb. 7 vs the Ottawa Senators

Samuelsson closes out the same game with his second of the night, an empty-netter to finish off the Senators. Canuck fans know Mikael McShooterson has a hard time passing up a shot, which is likely why he doesn’t even wait to gain the red line before he shoots this puck. Thankfully, Samuelsson’s pretty accurate (most of his shots go directly into the center of the net, where the goalie’s crest is). Without a goalie, this one goes right in.

14 Feb. 12 vs the Calgary Flames

Samuelsson uses his quick release to good effect here, taking a pass from Mason Raymond at the top of the circle, then spinning and whipping a wrister past Miikka Kiprusoff to tie the game at two. Kiprusoff’s in tough to block this one. Not only is nobody expecting a shot, but Ryan Kesler is in front with Jay Bouwmeester, providing a big, fat screen.

15 Feb. 12 vs the Calgary Flames

Back on the powerplay, Mikael Samuelsson scores his fifteenth of the season on another slapshot from the point. It will be interesting to see if he’s back there next season, in place of Christian Ehrhoff this time. Anyway, watch to the end of this clip to see Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin alternating screens: Kesler slides in front of Kiprusoff, then drifts to his right at the exact moment Daniel jumps in front from the left. There isn’t a Calgary defender anywhere near either of them.

16 Feb. 15 vs the Minnesota Wild

Samuelsson scores his sixteenth of the season by taking advantage of Ryan Kesler’s strong work behind the net to one-time a puck past Nicklas Backstrom. The seam that Samuelsson finds here is incredibly small: all five Wild players are within about three feet of him. Unfortunately for them, Samuelsson releases the puck so quickly that nobody can close that gap.

17 Feb. 22 vs the Montreal Canadiens

Samuelsson didn’t get enough credit for filling in for Alex Edler late last season, but he did a fabulous job. Not only did the Canucks’ powerplay continue to be the best unit in the league, they operated at a slightly better rate. One reason is that Samuelsson’s shot made people forget that they had lost Edler’s booming cannon from the point. We see it again here, as Samuelsson caps off some good board work by the Sedins and Ryan Kesler by wiring one past Carey Price.

18 Feb. 24 vs the St. Louis Blues:

Samuelsson’s 18th and final goal of the season is the result of some ridiculous Wizardous Sedinerie. Seriously, Daniel and Henrik are ridiculous sometimes. This is a picture-perfect cycle, as the twins back off the St. Louis defenders with about five passes in a three foot radius. Then, when Daniel has a little room, he throws a pass to Samuelsson, waist high. Some people thought that, maybe, this was a saucer pass intended for Chris Tanev sneaking in the backdoor. They were wrong. This is a Sedin set play, one of a handful of times that the Sedins threw a centering pass into a linemates’ waist to be knocked down and batted in. The best example is here.

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2 comments

  1. John
    July 28, 2011

    Anyone else notice that 14 of his 18 goals were at home?

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  2. JM
    July 28, 2011

    #5 is one of my favourite Canuck goals of last season

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