TORONTO (AP) Pavel Datsyuk’s North American magic show had one final act.
Months after deciding to leave the NHL and go home to Russia, the Detroit Red Wings great showed off his fanciful skillset one last time on this side of the ocean at the World Cup of Hockey. A lower-body injury may have cut his tournament short but not before another remarkable performance against players 15 to 20 years younger.
Datsyuk’s legs aren’t what they used to be at age 38, but he was a difference maker killing penalties and keeping up with the pace of a lightning-fast end-to-end victory against Team North America that helped Russia advance. He missed Russia’s round-robin finale Thursday against Finland and was scratched again from the lineup Saturday night against Canada.
Datsyuk left a lasting memory on the NHL, especially to his peers who appreciate his play the most from watching him up close.
“Oh, he’s unbelievable,” said Russian star Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “You do not see much what he (can) do because he’s so professional. He’s (the) most professional I’ve ever seen.”
Datsyuk had 314 goals and 604 assists in 953 games for the Red Wings over 14 seasons. But his play with the puck is more memorable than the points he scored with it, so much so that Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, used to recognize Datsyuk as “the magic man.”
Mike Babcock, who coached Datsyuk in Detroit before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, said the Russian was a pleasure to be around and someone he learned a lot from. Babcock, who’s coaching Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews with Canada for a third time, knows Datsyuk wasn’t as prodigious as those stars who were elite as teenagers but said he made a major impact when he entered the NHL at age 21.
“His span, I don’t know how many years it was, in my opinion he was the best forward in hockey in that time,” Babcock said Thursday. “Lots of people would say somebody else scored more points. He was the best player in hockey up front for a period of time with and without the puck.”
Datsyuk made it look as if he had the puck on a string and was among the best at knocking it away from opponents. Four times he won the Lady Byng Trophy awarded to the player who exemplifies sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of ability.
That standard hasn’t faded. Russia coach Oleg Znarok said in Datsyuk’s case, “age doesn’t matter.”
“He is responsible for a lot of roles on our team like penalty kill,” he said through an interpreter. “Definitely one of the best players.”
Datsyuk signed with SKA St. Petersburg to finish his playing career in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He has great respect from the game’s top players, and those who played with him understand that the most.
“Talking with guys on (the U.S.) team and guys that I’ve come across, (they know) just how good he is with the puck and his takeaways,” former Red Wings teammate Justin Abdelkader said. “He practices every day. A lot of people don’t see, but he’s always playing after games, small-area games or 1-on-1 with players. It just shows his commitment and how good he is.”
As exciting as watching Datsyuk in games has been for fans for over a decade, Abdelkader isn’t the only player in awe of his practice habits. Russian teammate Vladislav Namestnikov called Datsyuk “unreal” and figures he’ll get better just from soaking in how his elder prepares for games in the gym and after practice.
Injuries have hampered Datsyuk and he was traded at the draft – to the Arizona Coyotes to give Detroit cap relief. He’s on the Coyotes’ roster this season despite playing in the KHL, where he already has seven points in six games.
Datsyuk leaving with one year left on his contract may have rubbed some people the wrong way, but Babcock points out it happened for the right reason.
“Age catches up to all of us,” Babcock said. “But he’s still an effective player and he’s chosen to go home to be around his family and that’s good for Pavel.”
Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .
Canada has been, by far, the most dominant team at the 2016 World Cup, and thanks to their 5-3 win over Russia on Saturday night they are on their way to the championship round.
Leading the way for them has been the line of Sidney Crosby, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron. It has been, by far, the best line in the tournament, and they put on an especially dominant show on Saturday.
While Bergeron has been his usual rock-solid self, playing shut down defense and just playing great two-way hockey all over the ice, the Crosby-Marchand connection has been especially dominant for Canada on the scoreboard. Of the 19 goals scored by Canada through Saturday, one of those two players has had a hand in seven of them, including three on Saturday.
Crosby started everything with this individual effort to force a turnover and then beat Sergei Bobrovsky.
Later, he set up Marchand to tie the game at two after Russia had briefly taken the lead.
It should be no surprise that Crosby is putting on a show because, well, that is what he does. When you put him with a pair of great two-way players like Bergeron and Marchand and it should be a great fit.
But let’s talk about Marchand for a second, because he is really starting to make a name for himself as a top-line scorer. This tournament, even if it is a small four-game sampling at this point, has helped continue his transformation from always being considered nothing more than a pest that was also a pretty good hockey player to a legitimate top-line goal-producing force. This performance is no accident. Just remember that he scored 37 goals during the 2015-16 season (the sixth most in the NHL) and did not experience a significant jump in his shooting percentage (he actually shot slightly lower than his career shooting percentage), indicating that it may not have been a fluke performance. He simply took on a bigger role in the Bruins offense by receiving an extra two minutes of ice-time per game and being counted on to be a bigger part of the offense. He finally had a chance to shine offensively, and he took advantage of it.
The other thing that makes the obvious chemistry between Crosby and Marchand fascinating at this point is that it has already started the rumor mill for a potential reunion of the duo in Pittsburgh at some point given Marchand’s contract situation. Given the salary cap situations that is probably getting a little too far ahead, but it is at the very least an interesting “what if” discussion to be had.
Marchand is currently entering the final year of his contract and has not yet been re-signed by the Bruins.
No matter where he ends up signing, whether it is with Boston or another team, his next contract is probably going to be an impressive one.
Through two periods on Saturday night it looked as if Sergei Bobrovsky was going to give Russia a real chance to steal their World Cup semifinal game against Canada.
At that point he was still almost single handedly holding off a relentless Canadian offensive zone push and keeping his team in the game.
And then Canada finally kicked the door down in the third period on their way to a 5-3 win to advance to the World Cup final.
Canada will now play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe game in a best-of-three championship series to determine the winner of the tournament. That series will begin on Tuesday night.
Even though the score was tied through two periods on Saturday and the outcome of the game was still very much in doubt, this was still a pretty dominant performance from Canada from start to finish.
They completely shut down the Russian power play (which was abysmal throughout the entire tournament) and spent most of the night playing in the Russian end of the rink. They ended up finishing the game with a commanding 47-34 edge on the shot chart, and had it not been for a spectacular goaltending performance from Bobrovsky this game could have easily been even more lopsided on the scoreboard. Don’t let the five goals against fool you when it comes to Bobrovsky’s performance, either. He really was great.
The final score is simply a testament to just how good this Canadian team is, and how good it was on Saturday in all phases of the game.
They were great defensively, while the top line of Sidney Crosby, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron combined for three more goals in the win, including a highlight reel individual effort from Crosby in the first period to open the scoring.
Corey Perry and John Tavares also added goals for Canada to help them build a 5-2 lead before Artemi Panarin added a goal in the closing seconds for Russia to help make the score look a little closer than the game actually was.
Since the start of the 2014 Olympics, Team Canada is now 10-0 in best-on-best tournaments and has outscored its opponents by a 36-9 margin in those games.
It is going to take an incredible effort from either Sweden or Team Europe to beat them two times over the next week.
It did not take long for the Jets to issue a statement responding to the request.
In a statement released by the team, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said that in his view Trouba “still represents an important part of the long-term future” of the club and that they working diligently to resolve the matter.
Here is his full statement, via the Jets:
“We are aware of the statement issued by Kurt Overhardt regarding Jacob Trouba.
“Over the last three seasons, Jacob Trouba has played a key role for the Winnipeg Jets and in our view still represents an important part of the long-term future of our club. As such, any decisions made regarding Jacob Trouba will be made in the best interest of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club.
“As an unsigned player, we cannot compel Jacob to report to training camp at this time. However, we will continue to work diligently to resolve this matter. We will have no further comment on this matter until such time as it is resolved.”
That is pretty much the type of response you should expect from the team given the circumstances, and they can’t just give him away in a trade just because he requested one. He is still an extremely valuable player and getting fair value in return is a must for the Jets.
It is also worth pointing out that these things sometimes have a weird way of playing out. Just this past season we saw two very public trade requests go through without a trade ever being completed when Travis Hamonic requested a move from the New York Islanders for family reasons and Jonathan Drouin had his situation play out with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Drouin situation seemed to be beyond repair on more than one occasion and he not only ended up returning to the team, but also playing a key role for the team in the playoffs. He once again looks like a key building block for their team going forward.
We will see how this situation plays out for Trouba and the Jets.