DETROIT – They could become the NHL version of Peyton and Eli Manning. When the Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Peyton was named the game's most valuable player. One year later, when the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLII, Eli was the MVP. Two brothers. Two quarterbacks. Top honors, back to back.
Now here are Henrik and Daniel Sedin(notes), who not only are brothers, but identical twins; who not only both play forward – Henrik at center, Daniel at left wing – but play on the same line for the same team, the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, Henrik won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer and the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. This year, Daniel leads the league in scoring and is making a case for MVP.
Daniel scored two more goals Wednesday night as the Canucks beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 and widened their lead to a staggering 10 points atop the Western Conference. Who earned the primary assist on both goals? Who else? Henrik.
"I think this is something out of the ordinary, having two brothers one year after the other, having a chance of both winning the scoring title, maybe having a chance to both win the Hart," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said afterward. "I mean, we could be seeing history right now."
Not that you would know it from talking to them. They argue like, well, brothers. But it isn't about who's better. It's about who is not hyping whom.
"Hank is doing most of the talking," Daniel said. "He's pushing me."
"No," Henrik said. "He didn't do it for me last year, so …"
"Aw, I don't know," Henrik said. "There's a lot of guys."
Sure there are, and had Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby(notes) not suffered a concussion in early January, there would have been only one. With 32 goals and 66 points through 41 games, Crosby was on pace for the best statistical season in the NHL since the early 1990s. He was the runaway favorite for the Art Ross and the Hart. Henrik said it himself in late December: "Right now, I think it's Crosby by far. There's nothing you can say."
But who has been blessed more lately than Daniel Sedin? He and his wife had a baby girl at 5:19 p.m. Monday in Vancouver. Daniel flew to Detroit on Tuesday to join the team and jumped into the lineup without practicing for three days. In the second period, he was trying to find a teammate with a backdoor pass – yep, Henrik – when the puck deflected off a defenseman's skate and into the net. In the third period, the puck found him on the power play while the Detroit goaltender was on his butt with no stick. Quick shot. Score.
Suddenly, Daniel has a career-high 40 goals, only three behind the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos(notes), who has only three goals in his past 19 games. Daniel has a career-high 95 points, seven more than the next guy, Henrik.
The twins have never been separated by much. They were born Sept. 26, 1980, in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. They were constantly competing growing up – golf, tennis, school.
"I think school was pretty tight," Henrik said.
Who got the better grades?
"I was waiting for the question," Henrik said, smiling. "Yeah, it was me."
They're still constantly competing – when they work out in the summertime, when they go running, even when they have kids. Daniel had one first. Henrik followed. Now with the newborn, Daniel leads, 3-2.
"I think that's why we're where we are," Henrik said, "because we've pushed each other to get there."
The only thing in which they haven't competed is hockey. They played together as kids. They were drafted together by the Canucks in 1999 – Daniel second overall, Henrik third – after some deft maneuvering by Brian Burke, then Vancouver's general manager. Henrik has averaged .823 points per game in his career with the Canucks. Daniel has averaged .824.
"We play on the same line, so we're going to be happy for each other," Henrik said.
When Henrik accepted the Hart Trophy in Las Vegas last year, Daniel already had flown home to Sweden. He watched the ceremony on television and sent his brother a text message to congratulate him. He said he never envisioned winning the Hart himself, even though it couldn't have been easier, seeing his identical image on stage on the Strip.
"I looked at how Hank handled it last year," Daniel said. "He came to the rink every day and played the same way. You can't start focusing on those kind of things. It's going to ruin your game."
The irony of all this is that the twins had to split, however briefly, to reach their full potential. Daniel missed 19 games last season with a broken foot. While Daniel was out, Henrik proved to their critics – and to themselves – that one could play without the other. Henrik also learned not to rely on his brother. When Daniel returned, Henrik was more confident and dangerous. Daniel, too.
"That's been a weakness in our game," Daniel said. "When we've been struggling, we've been looking to each other because that's the easiest play to make. Now we try to use a lot of other players out there, which opens up things for us, too."
All sorts of possibilities have opened up. An Art Ross and a Hart for Daniel, too? It could happen. The Sedins could be an NHL version of the Mannings – except Daniel said he doesn't care about the MVP part of that parallel. The Mannings didn't win their back-to-back MVP awards in the regular season. They won them in the Super Bowl. Each won a championship. The Sedins could win one together.
"I would love to win the Stanley Cup," Daniel said. "That's the one thing that would be very special."