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Roy MacGregor

A Canucks sixth sense? Add to ...

It has become the great debate of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Not the Vancouver Canucks or Boston Bruins - that will eventually be decided on the scoreboard - but whether or not the Sedin twins of Vancouver are psychic?

Daniel and Henrik Sedin look so alike it took coach Alain Vigneault years before he could tell them apart. They speak so identically that they will sometimes say "we" even when one is talking alone. On the ice, they are distinguished by numbers, 22 for Daniel, 33 for Henrik, and by an astonishing ability to find each other when making passes, many of them blind, while moving the puck around in the opposition end.

So remarkable is this ability that the man who brought them to the NHL 11 years ago believes they "absolutely" possess a second sight, a sixth sense, a built-in communication system that gives them - Henrik the NHL's scoring champion last year, six minutes younger Daniel this year's scoring champion - an advantage never before known in the game.

"I've seen guys who had chemistry," says Brian Burke, general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs but GM of Vancouver in 1999, when the Swedish twins were drafted. "But I've never seen anything like this - it's like they have radar."

The twins themselves are not convinced, though Henrik, the team captain, did concede this week that, "Sometimes, even ourselves, we can maybe think that something strange is going on."

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, a fellow Swede and a linemate of the twins during the 2010 Olympics, says he has experienced what happens with them on the ice enough to believe that their story is all about skill and familiarity, not telepathy.

"It's not more than two super-skilled persons who can read the play," Alfredsson says. "It's more just being used to each other. They've played together so long. They know each other perfectly.

"But they can sure make it look like there's something telepathic going on."

"People say we have that on the ice," says Daniel, who also does not believe in telepathy. "We have the thing we have because we've played together for so long. It has nothing to do with anything else."

"There are always reasons why those things happen," Henrik adds.

Alfredsson agrees and says that such seemingly magical connection is not unusual among elite athletes playing on a team. He felt it himself when, for a couple of seasons, he and Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were the game's most formidable scoring line.

"It just happens," he says. "You don't even have to think. You just know where the other will be. The twins take this to another level."

"They communicate like dolphins," says the twins' current linemate Alex Burrows. "The way they move the puck, they have that sixth sense."

They do so because they are supremely skilled athletes - both were given the opportunity to move 800 kilometres south of their northern Sweden hometown of Ornskoldsvik to join an elite soccer school, but declined in favour of sticking with hockey - and because they have always played together, always on the same line. Among elite hockey players, there is simply no comparison when it comes to longevity and compatibility. Henrik, the elder, has always been the centre, the one most likely to make the pass; Daniel has been the shooter. Henrik has always been the team leader, Daniel content to let his older brother serve as captain of the various teams they were on. Henrik talks slightly more, but only slightly. They have the same accent, inflections and exactly the same dry humour. In separate interviews held only steps away from each other this week, they at one point cracked the same joke about winning a team scrimmage.

At age 30, the twins are clearly in their prime. They have their back-to-back scoring championships and, if Daniel is named winner on June 22 of the three finalists nominated as the league's most valuable player, they will have back-to-back Hart Trophies, as well. This week they were named recipients of Crown Princess Victoria Prize, awarded annually to Sweden's best athlete.

It usually goes to single recipient - but even in Sweden they do not separate the Sedin twins.

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