January 25 2010 05:53PM
How often did we hear the Sedins being questioned as first-liners or as playoff performers? How often did we read (and still, astonishingly, do) that they are good but not players of the upper-echelon variety? I’m afraid those who perpetuated such doubts hadn’t taken the time to watch them. In actuality, the Sedins are much better than most people once thought.
Here are six reasons why:
1. They absolutely dominate shifts, and I say this without a trace of hyperbole. Yes, we see the likes of Ovechkin and Kovalev do some exciting things here and there throughout the game; but they don’t consistently, from shift to shift, annex possession from the other team the way the Sedins do. For those of you out here in the West who are privileged to watch them night in and night out, you know exactly what I mean.
2. Apart from a few – Crosby a notable example – nobody shields the puck better than the twins do. This is a special skill in itself – it depends, among other things, upon a high degree of body and positional awareness – and deserves more recognition from media and analysts alike. But it is also highly efficacious. Players who are good at shielding the puck retain possession, they buy some time in order to think out a play, they enable those on their line to get into open spaces, they wear down their opponents, and much else besides.
3. The Sedins are great forecheckers, and masterful along the boards and in the corners. What is remarkable is not just that they almost always get possession or win battles along the boards, but how they do it. This is not the blind and frenzied, push and shove, bulldog hockey we so often see; there is a certain intelligence and elegance going on here. They are lifting sticks, gaining a certain body leverage, using their feet to move the puck, using each other in extremely close quarters, and so on.
4. They are, without a doubt, some of the best passers in the league. They may even be the finest when it comes to passing in tight quarters. Even if the latter has something to do with their twin-receptivity (since they are mostly passing to each other), it is truly a beautiful thing to watch and a phenomenon unparalleled in the NHL.
5. The one thing all great team-sport athletes share is patience. When they’re in possession they all seem to – sorry for the cliché, but this one is apt – slow the game down. However, this is probably the most intangible of all sport qualities and so the most difficult to explain. The best one can do, I think, is point to instances of it: Gretzky and Lemieux had it in spades; take a look at Tom Brady in the pocket, or recall Zinedine Zidane on the pitch. Now, there are not many examples of it in the NHL today, but Henrik and Daniel do manifest it to some degree, and it is the cause of much of their fine offensive play.
6. And finally, the twins are some of the most consistent players in the league. Not only are they consistent with respect to total points each year, but they are often the best, or among the best, players on the ice each and every night. We should remember that it is a difficult thing to be pertinent and noticeable every single game. Even the so-called superstars are not immune to this difficulty; there are numerous times the play of Ovechkin or Malkin has gone largely unnoticed in a game. That the Sedins almost always force us to become aware of them is a further testament to their skill and goodness.
This originally appeared on thehockeyticket.ca, Sept. 26th, 2009.