They were born six minutes apart – Henrik Sedin older than his twin brother, Daniel.
As children, they both played centre. It was at 14, when Daniel moved to left wing, the two began to forge one of the most incredible bonds in sport, skating almost always side by side.
The first time new Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella split the twins this year was three games into the young NHL season.
The team was losing to the Calgary Flames going into the third period. The separation caught some attention as the gambit appeared to work. The Canucks rallied and won.
Things were back to normal the next game. Then, last Tuesday, the Canucks down yet again, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers, Tortorella once more split the Sedins in the third period.
It worked again. With his brother watching from the bench, Henrik booked the 800th and 801st points of his career centering a line of Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins as the Canucks came back to win 3-2 against one of the league’s worst teams.
Even so, it was a surprise Wednesday in Philadelphia – ahead of a Thursday game in Buffalo – when the Canucks practised and the Sedins were separated (Henrik centering Kesler and Higgins, and Daniel playing left wing with Mike Santorelli at centre and Jannik Hansen at right).
Canucks fans are intrigued – looking for something to click from a lineup that has been mostly the same the past several years and a team that has not excelled early this season (4-3-0).
But splitting the Sedins does not seem like a true answer.
Chemistry is one of the most elusive formulas in professional sports and discarding a time-tested blueprint seems foolhardy. Tortorella has said as much. Still, the coach is experimenting.
So look at the evidence. Granted, the data volume is not overflowing, given the Sedins have spent most of each season together, but the instances of the twins separated does seem to dissolve the magic.
Start, for instance, with the Flames game. Tortorella split the Sedins at the start of the third, with the Canucks down 2-1, and the first thing that happened was the Flames scored again (with Daniel on with Hansen and Higgins). The twins did later both produce first assists to tie the game, which was eventually won in overtime.
Moving back farther in time, March of 2008, there was a short-lived experiment of the Sedins truly separated, or as much as has been seen in the past decade. The Canucks were on a late-season slide – and ended up missing the playoffs – and for a half-dozen games, former coach Alain Vigneault started the Sedins on separate lines. There was a huge amount of line juggling through that stretch, when the Canucks went 3-3, but the experiment, limited as it was, did not reveal superstar Sedins on their own.
They both scored seven points in the six games, but look closer: amid the line juggling, each scored five points when they were skating together – eerily, two goals and three assists apiece. Apart, each managed only two points.
Other available evidence – and it is fairly meagre – is “with or without you” figures from stats.hockeyanalysis.com. The conclusion is when the Sedins are separated, both produce less than when they’re together, and Henrik is the better solo twin than Daniel.
Henrik, through the years, is the one who has seen more solo time, because of a couple injuries to Daniel. Even last Tuesday in Philadelphia, Henrik looked like nothing had changed in the absence of his brother.
“I know we’re brothers and we usually play together,” Henrik said last week in Vancouver, looking to deflate attention after their Calgary separation. He said the brothers “absolutely” enjoyed a bit of time apart.
“It’s very refreshing,” Henrik said. “It’s like everything else – sometimes, you need to get away from something. I’m sure with [Tortorella] it’s going to happen more often than with [Vigneault]. It’s totally fine with us.”
Splitting the Sedins is more of a sideshow to the Canucks bigger, real problems, such as the uncertain second line when centred by Kesler, the myriad problems on the third line, and the disaster of a fourth line.
There are, at the end, only two Sedins.