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Like Kidman without Cruise or St. Paul without Minneapolis, Sedin can function quite nicely without Sedin, thank you. After left wing Daniel Sedin sustained a broken foot in the Canucks' fourth game, center Henrik Sedin scored 10 goals during his twin's 18-match absence, a significant increase over his career average of .17 goals per game entering the season.
In the sports lexicon this is called "stepping up." In truth Henrik, who led the NHL in scoring with 62 points through Sunday, stepped out—out of the psychological ties binding the 29-year-olds, out of the Swedish hockey stereotype, and out from behind the net and the corners where the nine-year veteran always seemed a little too happy to be creating scoring chances for others. Sedin has stepped so far out, he is SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's midseason player of 2009--10, edging the Sabres' superb goaltender Ryan Miller and the Rangers' one-man attack, right wing Marian Gaborik.
If you need a glimpse of why Henrik will obliterate his season best of 22 goals in 2008--09, check the video of his 20th on Jan. 5—the game-winner in a 7--3 rout of Columbus. Sedin ripped a wrister from the high slot, but the shot was less remarkable than the spot from which it was launched. "Hank would normally have been behind the net, trying to give an outlet to Danny," says the Sedins's linemate Alex Burrows, sometimes called the third twin. "But Hank was in the shooting area."
While Henrik's goal production has been ascribed to a belated willingness to shoot, this is only fractionally correct. (He averaged 2.25 shots per game in the first four matches with Daniel, then 2.28 in the ensuing 18 and 1.90 after Daniel returned on Nov. 22.) He's simply been firing from better goal-scoring locations. "He took a big responsibility to show everyone he could play without me," says Daniel, who entered the season with 70 more goals than Henrik, and who hadn't been separated from his twin for more than a few games in their careers. "He also had to show himself, I think."
Like many of his countrymen, Henrik had to overcome the pass-first reflex he'd learned in the MoDo club system in the Sedins's hometown of Ornskoldsvik; "the typical-Swede-being-a-nice-guy thing," Daniel calls it. Says Henrik, "At MoDo, if you have a two-on-one, they expect you to pass. They want you to play for the team, not yourself."
The Canucks (27-16-2 through Sunday, fifth in the Western Conference) are trying to pad their points before an NHL-record, Olympics-mandated, 14-game road trip that meanders from late January to mid-March. Henrik will be the pivot, in every sense of the word. Reunited with his twin throughout December, Henrik had 25 points as Vancouver won 10 of 15. In the Canucks' first four games in January, the twins and right wing Burrows combined for 24 points. Says coach Alain Vigneault, "Right now, that's got to be one of the real fun lines to watch." The trio has indeed been fabulous, but Henrik at last stands alone.
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