— When Douglas Murray suits up for the Swedish national team, the San Jose Sharks defenseman admits he can't tell one Sedin twin from the other. But that doesn't stop him from trying.
“I figure I've got a 50-50 shot at being right,” Murray said.
This spring, Murray will have no problem identifying the Sedins. They're the dynamic duo who crushed his Stanley Cup dream.
Daniel Sedin, the reigning NHL scoring champion and Hart Trophy finalist as league MVP, and Henrik Sedin, last season's Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, double-handedly dismantled the Sharks in leading the Vancouver Canucks to a five-game Western Conference final triumph and a berth in the Stanley Cup finals.
Henrik — the Vancouver captain and the Sedin brother who wears No. 33 — leads playoff scorers with 19 assists and 21 points. He set up 11 goals in the series, and his only tally was a game winner. Daniel, who wears No. 22, leads the team with eight goals, and collected six points against the Sharks, including a two-goal effort in Game 2.
“They're tremendous players,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Vancouver's twin towers of power. “One was the most valuable player in the league last year, one was supposed to be the most valuable player in the league this year.
“They're so in sync, it's almost uncanny how they read off of each other.”
Having overcome the Sharks, welcome to the Sedins' coming-out party. Two identical twins from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, are about to lead the way as Vancouver brings hockey's most coveted prize back to Canada for the first time in nearly two decades.
“They're two of the best players in the world, and there's not much more you can say than that,” said Nashville Predators center David Legwand, whose club was eliminated by the Canucks in second round of this year's playoffs.
Although some see their innate ability to find each other on the ice as being a sixth sense developed between identical siblings, the Sedins aren't as sold on their so-called ESP.
“I have an understanding where he's going to be, but I think it's mostly because we've played together for such a long time,” Henrik said. “I think if you put any two guys together for 20 years on the same line, they're going to read off each other and they're going to get used to where he's going to put the puck and where he wants you to be.
“I don't think it's about being brothers. I think it's more about being linemates for that long.”
Ever since then-Vancouver general manager Brian Burke engineered a series of moves at the 1999 NHL entry draft to select Daniel and Henrik with the second and third overall picks of the draft, the spotlight has been burning brightly on the Sedins.
When Vancouver has failed in the playoffs — and that's happened often enough in the past decade that someone could put together a detailed thesis on the subject — the twins have taken the brunt of the blame.
“I think they got some unfair criticism there,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
For all the heat that's put on them, the Sedins refused to wilt, utilizing their wonder twin powers to ward off criticism the best way possible. “We rarely read the newspapers or watch the hockey coverage on TV,” Henrik said. “We know when we're not playing well. We don't have to hear that from anyone else.”
Double the pressure? Double the glum?
Not the way they see it.
“We believe in ourselves,” Henrik said. “We believe, even though everyone on the outside hasn't, we believe that we're good players and we're playoff players. We can show up in big games.
“I think we're both believers in if you work hard, you do the right thing, it's going to turn around. Playoffs is tough in a way that if things aren't going well, you might have a break after one series. It might be summertime. That's the tough part.”
If they wanted out, the chance was there during the off-season two years ago, when the Sedins were unrestricted free agents. Instead, both re-upped with the Canucks.
“We're thankful every year that we come back to Vancouver,” Henrik said. “It's rare that you're able to play with your twin brother throughout your career, in a Canadian market, too, where hockey is big.”
Canucks GM Mike Gillis secured the Sedins' long-range future in Vancouver, signing the pair to identical five-year pacts worth $6.1 million per season, insisting they would be the ones to take Vancouver down the path to Stanley Cup glory.
“When we were in Sweden and we were getting close to signing them, we put the emphasis on them that they were going to be the leaders of this team, and as the leaders they had to be the players who showed everyone else the way,” Gillis said. “They were perfectly comfortable accepting that responsibility.
“In fact, they embraced that responsibility.”
It was exactly the response Gillis was hoping for from the twins. “I felt that it would make them better players, perhaps not in a point sense, but in an overall sense,” Gillis said. “That added responsibility, they were prepared for it, they were capable of handling it, they wanted it.
“I felt that it would make them better all-around players, and it did, and consequently their production increased. They found a winger in Alex Burrows who has been an excellent complement to the way they play."
As the city of Vancouver whips itself into a frenzy at the thought of hosting its first Stanley Cup celebration since 1915, when the Vancouver Millionaires won the title, the twins with the million-dollar touch are also gearing up for what lies ahead.
“We've never been this far,” Daniel said as he prepared with his brother for their first Stanley Cup finals appearance.”It's going to be a lot of fun. You have to enjoy the situation, just relax and play the game.
“It's still only hockey.”
The Canucks certainly don't let the stakes get in the way of their entertainment, especially when it arrives in the form of a twin bill. A common practice after a Canucks practice is for some teammate to switch the nameplates above Henrik and Daniel's locker-room stalls, hoping to catch an unsuspecting journalist up in a case of mistaken identity.
The Sedins simply tolerate the fun at their expense, because they've experienced such antics their entire lives. “We've been 'the twins' since we were 10-year-olds playing hockey, or soccer, or whatever,” Henrik said. “We were used to that before we came over to Vancouver.
“We don't see it as a problem.”
If you still can't tell them apart, this might help – Henrik, at 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, is one inch taller and one pound heavier than Daniel.
Should that not enable you to pick one Sedin from the other, here's another tip: Henrik will be the one who gets to lift the Stanley Cup first when the Canucks win it.
The common goal these two brothers have shared since arriving in Vancouver.