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Sedin twins’ struggles aren’t that different from other star slumps in recent Cup finals history

Jun 12, 2011, 9:48 PM EDT

Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin AP

Whenever a superstar player (or two, in this case) struggles on the league’s highest stage, the opposing defenses rarely get the credit they deserve. Usually media members and fans blame a deficit in an individual’s game – typically their “toughness” or ability to deal with pressure – for Stanley Cup finals failures.

The toughness factor certainly seems to be the major component of the criticism lobbed at the Vancouver Canucks’ Sedin twins, who are struggling to create their typically steady stream of offense against the Boston Bruins. Henrik Sedin hasn’t scored a single point in the 2011 finals series while reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Daniel Sedin scored a goal and an assist in Game 2 for his only points of the championship round. Henrik has a -2 rating so far while Daniel is -1.

For many old-timers, the Sedin twins fall victim to the supposedly “soft European” style of play that many believe doesn’t translate as well to the playoffs as the perceptively more “rugged” North American mindset. Yet when you also look at the struggles of two of the NHL’s biggest stars – two Canadian stars, by the way – in previous years, it’s clear that there’s nothing particularly special about the Sedins’ struggles. In fact, it’s possible that we probably should have seen it coming.

Jonathan Toews won last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy, but he was far from the finals MVP

It’s likely that more than a few sportswriters would love to depict Jonathan Toews as the mighty, hard-working antidote to the floating Sedin twins. Unfortunately for that knee-jerk reaction, the parallels between the Sedins’ slump and Toews’ title round torment are pretty clear.

In six games against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, Toews managed three assists and an ugly -5 rating. Much like the Sedin twins, Toews was forced to deal with an all-world defenseman (Chris Pronger) and needed his teammates to help him win a Cup. As hot as Michael Leighton was during the playoffs, I think we can all agree that the Sedins also face a far more formidable goalie in Tim Thomas.

Sidney Crosby was often foiled by the Henrik Zetterberg-Nicklas Lidstrom combo

In 2009’s seven-game finals series against the Detroit Red Wings, Crosby managed just a goal and two assists with a -3 rating. Much like the Sedin twins against Zdeno Chara, Thomas and the Bruins’ forwards, Crosby found himself frequently frustrated by Lidstrom and Zetterberg.

Luckily for Crosby, Evgeni Malkin exploited the Red Wings’ lesser defensemen enough to win the team’s third Stanley Cup and take the Conn Smythe as well.

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The Sedin twins don’t deserve a “free pass” for their struggles, but they shouldn’t be singled out as “soft” either. Crosby and Toews received some mild criticism when they had tough moments, but the speculation didn’t focus on some perceived lack of intestinal fortitude. (Unless you’re talking about Washington Capitals or Red Wings fans critiquing Crosby, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

It’s really not that tough to figure out why the Sedin twins are having so much troubling filling the net. Much like their first round series against 2010 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and their second round skirmish with Norris finalist Shea Weber‘s Nashville Predators, the Sedin twins are trying to score points against some of the world’s best at denying scorers. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Sedins devoured a looser defense in the San Jose Sharks, either.

The Sedin twins aren’t above criticism for their struggles. The Canucks will probably need more production from them, whether it comes from the power play or 5-on-5 play. That being said, their issues have nothing to do with their manliness. It just shows that they’re human.

  1. warpstonebc - Jun 12, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Doesn’t this trend just point out how absurd the NHL’s post-season standards are? When refs swallow the whistles, all that ends up is that thugs get more leniency to choke the skill out of the playoffs. I like 3rd and 4th line guys stepping up as much as anyone, but the post-season should be similar to the regular season. Games should be decided by legal play-making, not illegal play killing.

    • tommytd - Jun 12, 2011 at 11:27 PM

      The refs are swimming upstream…they work for a league that doesn’t enforce it’s own rules so what are they to do? If the NHL doesn’t get their act together and start enforcing their own rulebook, they’re going to get somebody killed one of these days and won’t that be a shame!

  2. polegojim - Jun 13, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    Sorry James, but it adds up exactly to softness and lack of toughness.

    They’re losing the individual battles and not showing any ability to adjust. Now is the time when elite players shine, and they’re doing anything but that. Will they break through?

    The Canucks are proving to be the better team, with Boston getting its little boost from the hit, but the Twins aren’t the reason.

    You boys above keep whining about the officiating. Imagine what it was like with no helmets, no pads, no visors… and then cry home to momma.

  3. jensen2401 - Jun 13, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Good article…

    The playoffs in general and especially the finals often come down to whose got the more adaptable players. While I agree with polegojim that they’re having trouble adjusting, I don’t agree that that equates with softness and toughness. All it means is that they not adaptable.

    In my opinion, the only “shining elite player” in this series has been Thomas but Game 2 and Game 5 showed us that even if not the Sedins, then some of the Canucks are figuring out how to adapt to his style and get the puck past him.

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