According to the Getty Images caption on the above photo (snapped by the great Jeff Vinnick, as most of our favourites are), this is a picture of David Perron “containing” the Sedins. Good call, Perron. Dragging the both of them to the ground and then holding them there is about as good a defensive strategy as any. The Sedins are fabulous and dangerous hockey players. Want to win? Pin them to the ice.
This is a lesson John Tortorella was quick to learn when he took over the Canucks, in a sense. Like Perron, he’s been pinning the Sedins to the ice in the early-going, (albeit not on their backs, where they’re less effective — he prefers the Sedins standing up).
Tortorella is using the Sedins more than they’ve ever been used in their whole careers.
Through their first seven games under Tortorella, thanks to a) an abundance of penalty-kill shifts and b) the coach’s obvious love for them, Daniel and Henrik are averaging 21:19 and 21:11 per game, respectively, good for 10th and 12th among NHL forwards. Daniel is the fourth most frequently deployed winger, behind Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and James Van Riemsdyk, and just ahead of Martin St. Louis and Alex Ovechkin.
It’s unprecedented for the Sedins. If they keep this up, which seems likely considering John Tortorella rides stars like another notable Italian, this will mark the first time ever that they’ve seen over 20 minutes per game. Moreover, it will mark the first time in their careers that both have finished among the top fifty forwards in icetime. Seriously.
Last year, Henrik and Daniel were 42nd and 54th in icetime among forwards, respectively. In 2011-12, they were 59th and 73rd. In 2010-11, the year Daniel won the Art Ross with 104 points, they finished 54th and 73rd among forwards. In 2009-10, Henrik’s Art Ross season, Henrik was the 38th-most deployed forward, with Daniel 60th. In 2008-09, they were 39th and 59th. They were 46th and 59th in 2007-08, and in 2006-07, Alain Vigneault’s first year with the team, they were 73rd and 89th.
If you’re looking for the most notable change between Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella, it’s here. Vigneault believed in conserving his Sedins for offence, the thing they were best at. Tortorella is going to play them as much as possible, which includes on the penalty kill and other shifts that tend to begin in the defensive zone.
The result: their icetime finally matches their status among the league’s elite.
Heck, Tortorella has split them up twice in his first seven games, and while he’s explained the coaching decision as little more than a way to shake things up, one gets the sense it’s just to get a little more Sedin out of his lineup. It’s not so much throwing his lines into a blender as it is using a spatula to scrape a half a cup more Sedin fruit smoothie out of the blender, because you don’t waste to waste any Sedin fruit smoothie — it’s just so delicious.
When Tortorella was hired, there was a lot of talk about whether or not he would clash with the Sedins. I’d say thus far the only thing about the twins that disappoints him is that there are only two of them.