VANCOUVER – The more things change with the Vancouver Canucks, the more Henrik and Daniel Sedin stay the same.
Similar physical attributes aside, the identical twins have remained quietly consistent as the Canucks (20-11-2) slowly move up the Western Conference ladder after battling injuries and inconsistent play earlier in the season.
Now, both Sedins are in position to re-claim the NHL scoring title that Daniel won last season and Henrik took home two years ago.
Daniel said Tuesday the success has come after he and his equally workaholic brother took longer than usual to get going this season after the Canucks advanced to the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last spring before bowing out to the Boston Bruins.
He agreed with coach Alain Vigneault’s assessment that, like the rest of the club, the twins needed time to find more spark after what has frequently been described as a Stanley Cup hangover due to the unusually long season.
“It’s completely right,” said Daniel. “We had a tough start and our team did, too. I don’t know if it was from a hangover or what it was. But, mentally, to get into games, it was really tough. It probably took a good 15-20 games. We can still make some improvement, but I think we’re on the right track.”
Heading into Tuesday’s NHL games, Henrik’s 39 points were good for a share of first place in the scoring race with Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, who is out with a concussion. Daniel had sole possession of second place, just a point behind with 38.
Daniel has recorded a point in 25 of the 32 games in which he has played, while missing one last week with a sore back. Henrik has produced offensive numbers in 24 of his 33 games. They are raising the question of whether they can build on the strong chemistry that they have displayed in recent years.
“It’s probably the same,” said Vigneault. “For the past four or five years, they’ve been two of the best players in the NHL—and this year is no different.
“They’re up in the scoring, they’re playing to their strengths, they’re two of the best players in the NHL and they prove it on a consistent basis.”
If Daniel manages to repeat, he would be the first to do so since Jaromir Jagr, then with Pittsburgh, claimed the last of his five consecutive points titles in 2001-02.
No other player has managed to claim more than one crown since then, giving extra credence to hopes of getting two in three years. But, true to form, the brothers known for their unselfishness downplay the opportunity to make history a second time.
“We know we have to be producing for us to be successful as a team,” said Henrik. “That’s our motivation. If that means we’re going to have 82 points this year or, I don’t know, whatever it is. It doesn’t really matter for us as long as our team is winning. That’s our focus.”
So far, so good. The Canucks have won 11 of their past 14 games. Even with several roster changes and injuries that have disrupted the bottom three lines, they are starting to resemble the 2010-11 club that won the President’s Trophy for first place overall for the first time in Vancouver’s four decades of NHL existence.
Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa likened the Sedins’ passing display in Monday’s 4-0 win over the Wild, when they produced three points apiece, to “poetry on ice.” Daniel credits much of the line’s success to left-winger Alex Burrows, who has three goals in as many games and four points in that time span.
“From day one, he’s been unbelievable,” said Daniel. “He’s such a good forechecker. He retrieves pucks and he’s such an overall smart player. It’s fun to play with him.”
“We’ve been working on our game and, lately, we’ve been executing a little better,” said Burrows. “That’s the bottom line, I think. If we get time and space, especially those guys, they’re going to make plays. For some reason now, we’re getting bounces going our way. It’s a fine line between a goal and a save or a missed shot, and right now we’re executing and that’s why we’re getting more on the scoresheet.”
Detroit winger Todd Bertuzzi, in town for a game Wednesday, said the bond that his former Vancouver teammates have is quite special and rare. The twins have come a long way since they entered the NHL as 18-year-olds and struggled to establish themselves as regulars.
“They’re men now,” said Bertuzzi. “They obviously came in young and had some high expectations. Playing under the pressure of what they were supposed to do early was a lot for them to handle, but they stuck with it and the organization stuck with them. They’re getting paid back in ten folds right now.”
Bertuzzi attributes much of the Sedins’ consistency totheir opportunity to be linemates throughout their careers. Twin telepathy aside, the chance to play alongside each other since their rookie season in 2001-02 has paid dividends.
“If you’re paired with a guy, you get that instant chemistry,” said Bertuzzi. “To be able to do it for 10 years now, or whatever it is, you’re going to have that kind of chemistry. You don’t see a lot of line combinations sticking around that long. They seem to have done a pretty good job together.”
Notes: Roberto Luongo will start in goal for Vancouver against the Wings. Jimmy Howard gets the netminding nod for Detroit. … Vancouver defenceman Keith Ballard, still bothered by a sore back, missed practice. … Winger Andrew Ebbett, out since November with a fractured foot, participated in his first full practice since going down with the injury. He is close to returning to game action. … Vigneault said the club will make a decision soon on whether to return winger Mark Mancari to the minors.