Red Wings superstar Pavel Datsyuk is the favorite player of many an NHLer and former NHLer, because where other players are trying just to keep up on the ice, No. 13 of Detroit almost seems like he’s toying with his opponents at times. A good example of his brand of brilliance came in Game 3 Tuesday of the Wings’ first-round series against Tampa Bay, when he scored the game’s first goal on a slick give-and-go with teammate Tomas Tatar…and Datsyuk’s well-positioned skate.
The teams were nearing the midway mark of the first period at Joe Louis Arena when Datsyuk carried the puck from behind his own blueline, through the neutral zone, then passed the puck to Tatar at Tampa’s blueline. And when Tatar fired a slap shot toward the net, Datsyuk somehow managed to keep his skate in a perfect position to redirect the puck past Bolts goalie Ben Bishop: Read more
At the NHL awards in June, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and Calgary’s Jiri Hudler will stand in the way of Pavel Datsyuk tying one of Wayne Gretzky’s marks.
The NHL announced Tuesday that Kopitar, Hudler and Datsyuk have been selected as finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy, the award given to the league’s most gentlemanly player. Datsyuk, who has already captured the award four times in his career, hasn’t won since taking home the trophy for the fourth consecutive year in 2008-09. If he takes home the Lady Byng for 2014-15, it will tie him with Wayne Gretzky with five wins and leave him two back of New York Rangers legend Frank Boucher, who won seven times. Read more
There are some coaches who, after losing or leaving an NHL job, need time to decompress and recharge their batteries before they start working again. Todd McLellan is clearly not one of those people. This Friday he’ll leave for Prague to coach Canada in the World Championship, then sit back and field offers the way Brad Richards did four years ago.
And those offers will come. From Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Edmonton and, depending on what his mentor Mike Babcock decides on his own future, perhaps Detroit. But Todd McLellan, who mutually agreed with the San Jose Sharks to part ways with one year left on his deal, will coach in the NHL next season.
“I’m a coach,” McLellan said on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I want to coach.” Read more
The best player on the ice in Tampa Saturday was a 5-foot-8 forward who couldn’t be stopped.
The Bolts’ Tyler Johnson channeled Martin St-Louis of old, firing in the first goal of the afternoon and putting the game out of reach with a breakaway tally at the end of the second to make it 4-0. The Wings swapped out Petr Mrazek for Jimmy Howard and tried to mount a comeback in the third, but the Lightning held on to win 5-1.
The win evens the series and throws the Red Wings’ goaltending position back into doubt, after Mrazek surrendered four goals on 18 shots in the first two periods.
Heading into the off-season, Dallas Stars management face a difficult decision regarding the state of their goaltending. Depth between the pipes was a serious issue, as the Stars failed to find a suitable backup for struggling starter Kari Lehtonen. As a result, they finished the season 27th in goals against.
In a recent chat with Stars fans, the Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News speculated over Lehtonen’s future. While acknowledging the 31-year-old is a “35-win, .917 goalie” who would be difficult to part with, Heika is wavering on whether Lehtonen can regain his form with the Stars.
Heika’s concern is understandable. While Lehtonen won 34 games for the Stars, his goals-against average (2.94) and save percentage (.903) was among the worst for NHL starting goalies. It didn’t help that Lehtonen’s backups (Jhonas Enroth, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas) fared little better, though Enroth improved in his final games of the season.
Perhaps Lehtonen would benefit from a fresh start, but moving him won’t be easy. In addition to his woeful stats, he’s got three years left on his contract at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. He also has a no-trade clause, though that becomes a limited one starting in 2015-16. Heika wonders if the Detroit Red Wings would be interested in a swap of Jimmy Howard or if Carolina would want to trade Cam Ward straight up for Lehtonen. Read more
The Red Wings came into their first round series against the Lightning as huge underdogs. And even after Detroit’s Game 1 victory, it wouldn’t be crazy to still consider them such.
Entering the series, from an advanced statistical perspective, the Red Wings were one of the top puck possession teams in the entire Eastern Conference and one of the few teams who kept pace with the Lightning when it came to underlying numbers in the East. After the series’ first game, however, it’s more than evident there’s a huge discrepancy between the two clubs when it comes to ability to control the run of play. If Detroit can’t turn the tides in that respect, this series could be a quick one. Read more
Pavel Datsyuk didn’t suit up for eight of the Red Wings’ final 15 games of the regular season, but if the veteran sniper is feeling any rust, he certainly isn’t showing it.
After Datsyuk put Detroit on the board midway through the first period with an outstanding deflection, it didn’t take long before Tampa Bay equalized to send Game 1 of the first-round series between the clubs to the first intermission as a 1-1 tie. It didn’t take long for Datsyuk to break that tie once the second period started, though, and of course, in typical ‘Magic Man’ fashion, the goal was gorgeous: Read more
HOW THEY WIN
LIGHTNING: The Lightning are the highest-scoring team in the NHL and have the ability to put teams away early with a tsunami of shots and play in the offensive zone. Much of Tampa Bay’s success comes from its roster’s ability to spread out the contributions. No defenseman plays more than 23 minutes a game and, generally speaking, no forward plays more than 20. The fact unheralded Tyler Johnson went into the stretch run of the season battling for the team’s scoring lead with Steven Stamkos tells you all you need to know about the Bolts’ depth of offense. After struggling on the penalty kill in years past, the Lightning have quietly become a top-10 team on the PK and use their quick-strike ability to be a shorthanded scoring threat. They’re also more than big enough to play that “heavy” game that seems to be so successful in the playoffs.
RED WINGS: Prior to the season, Detroit GM Ken Holland said that if the Red Wings could get anything resembling full seasons out of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and their goaltending held up, they would be fine. All those things have happened and the Red Wings have been much more than fine. When Detroit is healthy, it has a ton of depth in the form of four strong lines that can play in any situation and adapt to almost any style of game. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist are right there with Datsyuk and Zetterberg when it comes to offensive contributions, and they give the Red Wings danger and depth in scoring. Whether it’s Jimmy Howard or Jonas Gustavsson or Petr Mrazek, they have the kind of goaltending that is very good and can sometimes be great. They can be sure it won’t be a negative deciding factor in a playoff series. Read more