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Twin peaks: Sedins know success means Stanley

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Yahoo Sports

He jokes that he has thrown it “under the bed,” but he’s kidding, of course. Henrik Sedin(notes) has given the Hart Trophy a place of honor inside his Vancouver home, and he sounds as if he must keep it in plain sight, keep checking it, keep reminding himself that it’s real – that he really was voted the NHL’s most valuable player last season.

“It meant everything,” Sedin said. “It’s the nicest thing you can win as an individual player. … You look back, and it’s still tough to understand that you were there and you got it.”

Can you be a quiet MVP? If there is such a thing, it’s Sedin.

Henrik led the NHL in scoring last season with 112 points, even though he played 19 games without his identical twin and linemate, Daniel, who produced at virtually an identical pace. Henrik won the Hart, and the Canucks named him captain this season.

The Sedins hardly have slipped. Both are in the top 10 in scoring. Henrik is on pace for 97 points, which would be the second-highest total of his career. Daniel is on pace for 100 points, which would be a career high. The Canucks are contending for the top spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

And yet the Sedins hardly factor into the best-in-the-world debate.

It is dominated by the Pittsburgh PenguinsSidney Crosby(notes) and the Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin(notes), rightfully so and especially now – with Crosby hot and Ovechkin cold, with their teams featured in an HBO reality series and facing off in the Winter Classic, the league’s annual outdoor game on Jan. 1.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos(notes) has joined the conversation. A few others, like the Detroit Red WingsPavel Datsyuk(notes), are mentioned more often than the Sedins, at least among NHL players, coaches and executives.

Henrik has no problem with it, to an extent. Hey, Crosby has 57 points, leading the league by 10. Ovechkin won the Hart each of the two years before Henrik did. Crosby won it the year before that.

“Crosby and Ovechkin, I think they’re the best players,” Henrik said. “Right now, I think it’s Crosby by far. There’s nothing you can say.”

That said, despite Henrik’s Hart, awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, there remains a feeling that the Sedins are underappreciated – at least in the East, where people might not stay up to watch the Canucks play home games that start at 10 p.m. ET.

“A lot of times when you listen to the Eastern media, the things they say sometimes, you realize they don’t really know what’s going on,” Henrik said. “It’s a lot of guessing. It’s a lot of looking at the stats. I think it’s getting better, but I still think it’s there.”

At the very least, the Sedins are one of the most dynamic duos in the game, ranking with the likes of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom(notes), Stamkos and Martin St. Louis(notes), Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg(notes), and the Chicago BlackhawksJonathan Toews(notes) and Patrick Kane(notes).

It’s easy to see that the Sedins are unlike any other duo, in that they’re so alike each other. There is no doubt their DNA has helped in the NHL. “We’re twins, we should be this good,” Henrik said with a laugh. Said linemate Alex Burrows: “Guys say they communicate like dolphins.”

The Sedins have played together since they were kids. They were drafted together in 1999, when former Canucks general manager Brian Burke took Daniel second overall and Henrik third. They entered the league together in 2000, and they still enter the dressing room together when they leave the ice after practice.

When they walked in Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, they found their nameplates had been switched – an old joke. They simply switched them back, not that anyone would have realized it if they hadn’t.

But look closely, and you can see little differences and better appreciate what the Sedins bring to the game. Henrik speaks more and generates more assists; Daniel speaks less and scores more goals. They’re smart and read off each other. They put pucks in areas no one expects. They’re experts with the saucer pass. They come back defensively more than many realize.

Their careers took off after the 2004-05 lockout, when the NHL cracked down on obstruction and freed up skill players. They worked hard to increase their speed. They reached a new level last season – not in spite of the broken foot that sidelined Daniel from early October to late November, but maybe because of it.

A common question was whether one could succeed without the other. Henrik answered that. “It was good for both of us to see that he could play without me,” Daniel said.

And when Daniel returned, Henrik said, “I think we played our best hockey in our careers. I don’t know why that was. He was healthy. I think he had missed hockey. He came back fresh.”

The Sedins’ defining characteristic is consistency. They rarely grab headlines by racking up three or more points in a game, but they produce night after night after night, machine-like. “We try to play the same way every game, every year,” Daniel said.

Daniel has 38 points this season, eighth in the NHL. He has only one three-point game, but he has only five no-point games, meaning he has posted one or two points in 25 of the Canucks’ 31 games.

Henrik? Virtually identical. He has 37 points, ninth in the NHL. He has only one three-point game – Nov. 15 at Buffalo, just like his brother – but he has only six no-point games, so he has posted one or two points in 24 of the Canucks’ 31 games.

“Every night they show up and they put their best foot forward,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “They play hard at both ends of the rink, and that’s why they’ve become elite players in the league, because they’ve really worked at the game.”

The final frontier, of course, is the Stanley Cup. “That’s what we’re missing,” Henrik said. The Canucks have never won it in their 40-year history. They haven’t made the conference final since the Sedins arrived. The past two postseasons, they lost in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Canucks’ biggest question marks were grit, depth and goaltending. They have addressed them by adding forwards Manny Maholtra and Raffi Torres(notes) and defensemen Keith Ballard(notes) and Dan Hamhuis(notes), while relieving goaltender Roberto Luongo(notes) of the captaincy and the weight that went with it. Meanwhile, the ’Hawks have weakened, losing half their team to a salary-cap purge in the offseason and suffering through injury issues so far this season.

But to win in the playoffs, your best players must be your best players. That means Luongo has to prove his doubters wrong. That means Ryan Kesler(notes) has to continue his stellar play. And that means the Sedins, both of whom posted 24 points in 22 games over the past two playoffs, must do even more. Outplay other top players head-to-head for four rounds – make Henrik’s Hart a start, not the high point – and the appreciation will come.

“I mean, we’re Vancouver,” Henrik said, “and we haven’t won anything for …”

Henrik half-laughed.

“Ever,” he continued. “So the pressure’s going to be there. It’s not going to change just because you have a better team. It’s going to go up.”

In the Stanley Cup final, every game is on at prime time in the East.

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