MONTREAL- Little brothers following around an older sibling may be nothing new, but few have gone as far as Saku's brother Mikko over the course of his budding hockey career.
He may be nine years younger, five inches taller and play for a different NHL team than the Canadiens captain, but that's where the contrasts with his brother stop.
Like Saku before him, the 23-year-old represented his native Finland at the World Junior Hockey Championship while also honing his skills with TPS Turku of the Finnish Elite League under the watchful eye of their father and head coach Jukka Koivu. Their career paths finally intersected at the 2006 Olympics when Saku and Mikko joined forces to help lead Finland to a silver medal in Turin.
Now anxious to make his own mark and step out of his brother's shadow, Mikko has followed up his modest 21-point rookie campaign in 2005-06 with 15 points in only 21 games so far this season. That's just two points shy of Saku's 17 points in 20 games for the Canadiens.
"We talk all the time, but it was great to see him this week," said Saku. "I'm really happy for him that he's off to such a strong start this season."
Currently sitting first and second in points on their respective teams, Saku and Mikko may be on their way to managing a brotherly feat that has not been matched in almost 25 years. In 1982-83, the Broten brothers each led their clubs in points, with Aaron topping the Devils with 55 points and Neal leading the North Stars with 77 points.
The Koivus are one of 10 brother acts to have played an NHL game so far in 2006-07, on a list that includes the Staal brothers and of course the Sedin twins.
The Finnish tandem of Saku and Mikko Koivu are among the NHL's most dangerous brother acts so far this season.
|Family ||Big Bro ||Little Bro ||Total |
|Sedin ||Henrik (22) ||Daniel (19) ||41 points |
|Hossa ||Marian (31) ||Marcel (3) ||34 points |
|Koivu ||Saku (17) ||Mikko (15) ||32 points |
|Staal ||Eric (23) ||Jordan (8) ||31 points |
|Michalek ||Milan (23) ||Zbynek (8) ||31 points |
|Niedermayer ||Scott (20) ||Rob (8) ||28 points |
Wednesday night's matchup marked the second-ever Koivu showdown, with Mikko having drawn first blood with a 4-3 win over the Habs last Dec. 17 in Minnesota.
"The intensity is always there whenever we play each other that's for sure," admitted Saku. "That's what sets these games apart."
Having now seen his big brother return the favor to knot the Koivu series 1-1 thanks to the Canadiens 4-2 win over the Wild, Mikko will have to wait until their next clash to regain family bragging rights.
"Like I just finished telling Saku, I was pretty nervous, a lot more than I thought I would be," admitted the younger Koivu after having quickly met up with his brother in a Bell Centre corridor before boarding the team bus. "I don't think that will ever change. Facing him will always be special."
When asked about the one-on-one battle with his brother midway through the first period which led to a tripping call and then Saku's set up of Alex Kovalev's game-opening goal, Mikko proved that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
"That was not a penalty," said Mikko with an eerily familiar glare in his eye.
Losing never goes over well in the Koivu household, not even to your big brother.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com