Sedin twins finally get some respect


He says he doesn’t care about it, but now and then there is just the slightest edge to Henrik Sedin’s words — a tiny change of inflection, a quickly subdued flash of irritation — that gives it away. <BR>


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VANCOUVER — He says he doesn’t care about it, but now and then there is just the slightest edge to Henrik Sedin’s words — a tiny change of inflection, a quickly subdued flash of irritation — that gives it away.

A little edge that says: “I always believed I could do great things. Why didn’t you?”

He says he doesn’t care that the thing that’s been so slow to come to him and Daniel — respect — has finally arrived from all corners of the continent, now that he has climbed to the top of the National Hockey League scoring race. 

But deep down, respect is what the twins have always craved and rarely, and only grudgingly, received. Even in Vancouver. Wednesday, the morning after he and his brother each recorded three points in a 7-3 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik stood in the middle of a cluster of cameras and notebooks and almost, but not quite, admitted to a quiet satisfaction over the subtle change in the way the twins are perceived these days.

The quibblers are quieter on the airwaves now.

Something happened when Daniel missed 18 games with a broken foot, and Henrik just carried on, scoring at a point-a-game pace without his other half. 

“I think it made him realize he’s a good player without (Daniel), and that he could carry a team, and he’s been playing like this ever since,” says Canucks captain/goaltender Roberto Luongo. “His demeanour hasn’t changed at all, from what I see. But you can tell that on the ice, he’s carrying the play.”

If there’s exasperation on Henrik’s part, it’s from the perception that he and Daniel were a single entity, each half completing the other, neither functional alone. The inseparable part is hardly an exaggeration, said Alex Burrows. 

“It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen them argue or get mad at each other, they’re together every minute, on the plane, every road trip, they walk to the rink together, have dinner together, have coffee together,” said the feisty winger, who had a hat trick Tuesday. But there was a real change in Henrik, he said, when Daniel was gone.

“He was still a point-a-game guy,” Burrows said, “but he discovered his scoring touch by shooting more and going to those tough areas and scoring some dirty goals rather than staying to the outside and making plays.”

“People are going to have their opinions,” Henrik said. “I can’t say (Daniel’s absence) was good for me, because I know we play a lot better together. It was tough for me, when he wasn’t there, for sure, but at the same time to keep scoring and producing the way I did gave me confidence, and showed people that we could play apart.

“I mean, we’ve never been injured, so we’ve never had to. But just because we’re twins and have played together the whole time, doesn’t mean we can’t play (separately).

“But again, if we were to come in every day and try to prove people wrong, it would be a tough job. Having fun is a big part of it.”

The proving has been going on from the very beginning. The fun is more recent.

“It was almost a burden the first couple of years to come down to the rink and play hockey,” Henrik said, “and that’s not the way it should be.

“We weren’t really ready to play at this level, I think, and Brian (former Canucks GM Burke) knew that when he drafted us, too — we were still boys, we had played soccer until pretty much a year or two before we came over here, so we knew it was going to take time.”

Until this year’s spike, the twins’ upward movement was a steady progression. They went from third-liners to second- and then, when Alain Vigneault took over as head coach from Marc Crawford, he quickly realized that the twins were already better than a fading Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, the remnants of the old West Coast Express. 

Vigneault’s promise to reward good performance with more ice time and not play favourites pretty much ended Naslund’s desire to remain in Vancouver, and has worked to the Sedins’ advantage. 

“Every year, what these guys do through deliberate practice and great summers, they improve,” said Vigneault. “And when you improve continually, you get what you’re getting now.”

And what are you getting now? Double magic. Right now, they only need a little elbow room, which Burrows provides with his heavy lifting and surprising flashes of brilliance. They have created havoc in the offensive zone on a large percentage of their shifts in the past six weeks, since Daniel’s return.

“More Grade A chances than they’ve had in the past,” as Vigneault puts it. “I mean, we (count) chances after a game, and five-on-five both those guys were plus-9 (against Columbus). That’s huge in a game.”

And Henrik, despite that extra-sensory connection with his twin and a natural tendency to look for Daniel, has not stopped scoring. So a 29-year-old centre with a career high of 22 goals already has 20. A guy who had 82 points in his best season is on pace for 111. 

It’s one of those overnight sensations you hear about, that’s 10 years in the making.

And worth the wait.

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