Unless you devote too much of your life to Fantasy endeavors -- we speak of the statistical variety, naturally -- the Sedin brothers might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Swedish twins.
You might remember that tongue-in-cheek spot featuring the identical siblings in full uniform at a stag party. They were providing the, ahem, entertainment to a stunned group that clearly had other images in mind and the ad quickly became a bigger YouTube sensation than any of the many highlight reel goals they have combined for during their careers with the Vancouver Canucks.
"It's kind of funny," Daniel laughed. "Especially since we are both such bad actors."
Fortunately for the Canucks, they are both pretty good hockey players and the Ying to the other's Yang on the ice. At least until earlier this season when Daniel broke his foot and missed 18 games.
The injury was one of several to hit Vancouver in the early going, but was critical to the Canucks' offensive engine because it forced the playmaker Henrik to go longer than he ever had without his favorite finisher. Yet, somehow, it became a seminal moment in the twins' NHL careers.
"I think it showed people that we can play apart," Daniel said. "That was big."
More so for Henrik who, in a period of self discovery, realized he too could be a goal scorer. The lanky center has picked up about four assists for every goal in his nine NHL seasons, effectively double the ratio of Daniel. But without his brother to dish off to for more than a month, Henrik changed the trend, scoring 10 of his career-high 25 goals while getting only eight assists.
The scoring push helped him take over the league scoring lead for nearly a month beginning in early January and went a long way toward keeping the Canucks afloat during a difficult stretch. "I don't really think I stepped up," Henrik said. "I didn't play any better or worse without my brother, you can't play the same way. I don't really think there's any difference."
|Daniel (left) and Henrik Sedin have combined for 130 points through Wednesday. (Getty Images)|
"When Danny went down, Hank was good, but he's so much better with his brother, there's no doubt in my mind about that," Vigneault said. "That's normal when you've been playing together for so long."
The 29-year-olds have played together since they first started skating back in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden and have mirrored each other's rise to stardom. It is the kind of familiarity that breeds what Vigneault says can't be taught; a remarkably innate sense of where the other is on the ice and how to best take advantage of it.
"They can cycle and move the puck and find each other without even looking," said Alex Burrows, who has turned into a pretty fair scorer himself since joining the line more than a year ago. "It's amazing to see the kinds of things they can do together." The result has been a more-than-modest level of success for the brothers, who arrived in the NHL together a decade ago with the Canucks.
They began their careers highly touted, but still in the shadow of established stars like Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Mattias Ohlund, and it wasn't until after the lockout that they began taking more prominent roles, turning into perennial point-per-game players. This season, they are exceeding that pace measurably, a coming-out of sorts for players whose geographic location prevents them from getting the kind of recognition they might in an Eastern city. Still, with all-world goaltender Roberto Luongo hitting his stride, the Sedins are giving the Canucks reason to believe they can seriously contend for a Stanley Cup this season.
"It seems teams can't contain them," Luongo said. "They've become dominant."
Both say there is nothing really different about them this season other than being more confident and mature, and certainly more comfortable after being locked up to long-term contracts just before hitting the free-agent market last summer.
There were rumors that Toronto general manager Brian Burke, who managed to trade his way into position to draft the brothers second and third overall in 1999 when he was with the Canucks, would make a serious play for them. But it never got that far, or even close to it according to the Sedins, because they signed identical $30.5 million contracts with no-movement clauses before the market opened.
"The money has never been a big thing for us because we love Vancouver and our families love it too," Daniel said. "That's important to us, but at the same time we wanted to be treated fairly, and I think we were."
Now they are returning the favor.
"When they got here, there were a lot of veterans who helped them grow, and now it's their turn," said Vigneault. "They've come back this year and put more onus on themselves, not just on the ice, but in the dressing room.
"That's why they've taken their game to another level."