Monday, June 18, 2012

Top 3 Datsyuk Plays That Set Up Other Datsyuk Plays

Pavel Datsyuk is a magician. We all know it. I've often remarked to other people that he should be barred from playing in the NHL because it should be illegal for one player to be that much better than everyone else. I honestly believe he is the best complete player in the NHL and I think I could say that even if I wasn't a Red Wings fan. Better than Malkin, better than Crosby, Ovechkin...everybody.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America
He does some amazing things on the ice. He does them with the puck and without the puck, offense, defense, shots, passes and dekes. He's always trying new things, or old things in new ways; just in general trying to find any way to be successful and help the Wings win. But what has surprised me is how he seems to keep moments filed away in his memory for future use. He remembers something he did or something someone else did and uses that information to do something impressive. A perfect example is him punking Shea Weber.

But what I don't think people realize is that Datsyuk can do this across games, across seasons even. Something he does in 2003 can be tweaked and reused in 2007. I don't mean using the Datsyukian Deke on multiple goaltenders, but something even bigger and better. To use a football analogy: Datsyuk is a one man play action pass. He "runs the football", getting the other team to believe he's going to do one thing, then does something else. And the other teams have to respect his play, because he's so damned capable. Let's get to the list.

#3: Pavel Datsyuk and the Corner Office: Datsyuk is in the corner, working away at Nashville Predators LW Nick Spaling. Then this happens.

Now, that's a great goal. And it shows the versatility of Datsyuk. Finesse? Nah, just going to beat you by being stronger. A little more than a year later, I was watching a Wings game and a play took place. It made my mind flash back to the Spaling play.

Look at it. He's in almost the same spot on the ice. The way he dips his shoulder. Oduya has to respect Datsyuk's play. He knows Datsyuk is stronger than he looks, he knows that he can drive to the net just like against Nashville. So he tries to give him space and cut off the angle of attack, and Datsyuk snaps off one of the most wicked passes I've ever seen. 

#2: Datsyukian Crime Spree: This one may seem like a stretch to some people, but trust me when I say that Datsyuk doing what he does forces players to think differently. It's 2002, and Datsyuk is a young forward still trying to find a place in the Red Wings organization. Jaomir Jagr is a veteran goal scorer. Then this happens:

How does this play set up future Pavel Datsyuk plays? I want you to ask yourself a question: how often do you see anyone in the NHL try to just stick handle pass Datsyuk anymore? Not very bloody often. Instead, because of Datsyuk's known pension for thievery players have a tendency to either make a pass or try to protect the puck by putting their body between Datsyuk and the puck and skating away. 

I would imbed the videos, but blogspot will only allow me so many imbeds. So check out these two plays, both against Nashville. First in 2010 he picks Kelin's pocket and this year, he kindly lightened Roman Josi's wallet. Those plays maybe don't happen if Jagr never makes the fatal flaw of thinking Datsyuk is just some young punk back in 2002.

Number One after the break

#1: The Datsyuk Deke Sets Up....Another Datsyukian Deke: Anyone who is anyone knows what the Datsyukian Deke is. First against Turco. Then famously against Vokoun in the shootout. But what you don't know is that his trademark shootout/breakaway deke actually set the stage for another classic Datsyukian shootout deke.

I know what you're thinking. Linus Omark did this first. While that's true - and I'm not trying to detract from Omark's awesome move - I submit that the reason why Datsyuk was able to pull it off is because of his trademark deke. Watch how Datsyuk approaches the net, watch his body language as he creeps up. He fakes the shot - a little less than in his trademark deke - then after he's frozen Niemi he toe drags to force him to shuffle and slide out of position, and then a little flip of the puck. 

So there you have it. There are other great moments where Datsyuk uses the same skills over and over again, slicing through the defense, making great passes. I'm sure over the next few seasons we're going to see even more magic. The next slight of hand trick Pasha demonstrates for us and makes his fellow professionals look like star-struck children, check back through the highlight reels and see if that isn't the latest Pavel Datsyuk's Variation on a Theme.

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