CHICAGO (AP)—Henrik Sedin(notes) is an inch taller and one pound heavier than his twin brother, Daniel. It’s a difference that will be barely noticeable when they take the ice for the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference semifinals.
What the Chicago Blackhawks see are two potent scorers and passers, the catalysts of a high-scoring top line they must control in this playoff rematch from a year ago.
The Sedins have a feel for the game and for each other that comes naturally. Now they’ll try and help the Canucks reverse that tough, six-game loss last year when the teams—bitter rivals—open the series Saturday night at the United Center.
“I don’t think we do anything over the top. We read off each other,” said Henrik Sedin, who led the NHL in scoring this season and is a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.
“We’re good using each other. We’ve seen everything from each other, if not in games, in practice.”
Henrik said he and his brother, who are 29, begin playing when there were about 5 in their native Sweden. They were on different lines for five or six years and then were put together at age 13. They joined the Canucks for the 2000-01 season and signed matching five-year, $30.5 million contract extensions last summer.
“We’ve been playing together for several years now, but I don’t think I expected especially Hank to get 30 more points this year than last year,” Daniel Sedin(notes) said. “That’s quite a step for him, but he’s had a good season and been consistent and healthy, so it’s been good.”
The Canucks scored a Western Conference-best 272 goals. Henrik Sedin finished with 112 points, including 83 assists. Daniel matched his brother’s goal output with 29 and had 56 assists in only 63 games after missing 18 games with a broken foot.
One lineup change made a major difference in the Canucks’ first-round series win over the Los Angeles Kings. Mikael Samulesson replaced Alex Burrows on the first line with the Sedins during Game 4 and ended up with 11 points in the series, including seven goals. Daniel has 10 points and Henrik finished with eight in the six games. Samuelsson, who missed practice Thursday, was back on the ice Friday and ready to go.
When the Blackhawks beat the Canucks a year ago in the semifinals, Henrik finished with three goals and three assists, while Daniel had two goals and three assists.
“They’re two players who can play great without the other. You recognize the skill they have. … When you put them together, they really understand each other and they know where the other guy is going to be out there. It’s tough,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews(notes) said.
“You got to be aware of where their linemates are, especially when one of them has the puck.”
Expect a fast-paced offensive series between two teams who have a history of dislike for one another. It will be an entirely different style from what the Blackhawks saw in the first round from Nashville, which played a tough defense that tried to stifle Chicago’s speed before losing in six games.
“They really progressed this year, not just the Sedins, but as a team they got quite a few guys who can make plays,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “They are dangerous off the rush and I think checking is going to be a priority.”
The Canucks are eager to erase what happened a year ago when they led the series 2-1 and had a 1-0 lead late in Game 4 before Chicago tied it and won in overtime. Chicago captured the next two games to clinch.
“Wishing to play against the Blackhawks would not make you a smart person,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Friday. “They are an outstanding team but that being said, we are very motivated, we’re disappointed how things ended last year and we wanted another kick at them.”
The series could rest on a goaltending matchup between the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo(notes), who led Canada to a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics, and Chicago rookie Antti Niemi(notes), who posted two shutouts over the Predators.
Luongo gave up seven goals—three by Patrick Kane(notes)—in Chicago’s clinching Game 6 win a year ago, a performance that left him in tears. He was 2-2 this season against the Blackhawks. Niemi was 1-2 against the Canucks with one shutout.
“Truthfully I’m more worried about Kane and Toews than I am about that,” Vigneault said. “We expect the refs to call goaltender interference when it’s there.”
Luongo was peppered with Byfuglin questions after taking off his gear Friday.
“He’s a guy who stands in front of the net, just like every other team,” Luongo said. “You got to find ways to find the puck and fight through those things and make the saves.”