A pair of former Modo players—and identical twins—are ready to help Sweden defend its gold medal in Olympic hockey.
by Chipp Reid
There’s an unusual name atop the leader board for scoring in the National Hockey League. He owns no scoring titles, doesn’t have a reputation as an on-ice sniper, but that hasn’t stopped Henrik Sedin.
The Vancouver Canucks center has 78 points in 54 games, four more than Washington Capitals marksman Alexander Ovechkin, who lifted the Art Ross trophy as the NHL's top point producer in 2008, and 24 points more than Pittsburgh Penguins Russian sniper Evgeni Malkin, who claimed the scoring crown last season
Henrik, with the help of his identical twin brother and line mate, Daniel, rocketed up the scoring chart in December and, with a goal in Vancouver’s 5-3 win over Toronto Jan. 30, has 25 goals and 53 assists. Daniel had a pair of goals in the game, giving him 16 goals to go along with 35 assists. The third member of their line, Alex Burrows, also had a pair of goals in the win, and is just six points shy of his career-high of 51 points. Burrows has 23 goals and 22 assists and gave all the credit to the brothers.
"It's like some kind of magic with those two guys," Burrows said. "They know where they're going to be, especially in the offensive zone. If it's on the forehand or the backhand, they're able to make those saucer passes, and it makes them really fun to watch."
Vancouver embarked on a 14-game road trip that will keep the team off home ice until March. The Canucks’ home rink is also the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics hockey tournament and the Sedins figure prominently in Swedish hopes of retaining the gold.
The Sedins played secondary roles for Sweden in Torino. Henrik had 3 goals and 1 assist; Daniel had 1 goal and 3 assists. In Vancouver, they will make up two-thirds of Sweden's top line, and the Tre Kronor expect them to provide much of the scoring. Their likely candidate for the final spot on their line is Mattias Weinhandl of Dynamo Moscow in the Russian Continental Hockey League.
Weinhandl never found NHL success but leads Dynamo in scoring and is third overall in the league. He also has some experience with the Sedins—they played on a line together, with much success, for the Swedish club Modo during the 1999-2000 season.
Still, it is the twins who now carry a burden which Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin and Tomas Holmstrom once shouldered for Sweden. They seem poised to accept the mantle as they remain the hottest scoring players in the NHL. Henrik has 10 points in four games and points in 23 of 25 (9 goals, 37 assists) while Daniel has nine points in four games and points in 10 of 11 (5 goals, 14 assists).
"It's fun coming to the rink when you have line mates like this. We like playing with each other and they deserve a lot of credit as well," Henrik said. "Luck comes through hard work. That's the bottom line, but I think we should talk about our team and the wins we have put together—that's the main focus."
As he continues to score, Henrik has made himself into a legitimate contender for the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He is also vying to become the second Swede to win the NHL scoring crown. Forsberg won the title in 2002-03 with 106 points while playing for the Colorado Avalanche.
The Sedins's scoring exploits have not gone unnoticed back home in Sweden as the country prepares to defend the gold medal it won at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Henrik said one drawback about playing in Vancouver, however, was the time difference. Vancouver is nine hours behind Stockholm.
“They follow the NHL a lot, especially before the Olympics, but we are on the west coast (of Canada) and the news barely makes to the east coast,” he said.
As for his success this year, Henrik Sedin said it all came down to the most basic element of playing any game.
“We like playing with each other, Daniel and Burrows are having a lot of fun,” he said. “Both Daniel and Alex make it easy for myself.”