DETROIT — Surrounded by inquisitive media, the guy who one day earlier had lifted up the Detroit Red Wings, put them on his back and carried them away from the brink of elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs was talking about what allegedly ails him.
Pavel Datsyuk scoffed that at the notion that his right wrist, injured earlier this season, is a burden on his ability to perform on the ice.
“What wrist?” Datsyuk said, smiling. “I’m OK.”
After he distributed three assists on a trio of magical passes, stripping the puck from San Jose’s Patrick Marleau to begin the play for the winning goal in Detroit’s 4-3 verdict over the Sharks Sunday in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal at HP Pavilion, certainly there wouldn’t be too many people on the San Jose side buying into the Datsyuk is hurt angle.
You can’t fool them, unlike the Detroit newspaper that wrote on its website the afternoon of Game 5 that with Detroit’s season on the line, it was unlikely that Datsyuk would play.
OK, so maybe his wrist prevents him from taking faceoffs and perhaps even from doing the hokey pokey, but there was never a doubt in Datsyuk’s mind that it was going to keep him out of uniform.
“At playoff time, nobody has injuries,” Datsyuk said. “Everybody still plays. This is like, why NHL is so good.”
He is like, why the Wings weren’t coming home on a morbid final flight Monday. Instead, they will playing Game 6 tonight at Joe Louis Arena
Down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and on the scoreboard early in the third period Sunday, Datsyuk stepped up his game and reopened the debate as to where he ranks among the world’s greatest players. Most hockey people will still put Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby at the top of that list, concussion or no concussion, but with Crosby out of action and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin banished to Slovakia for the IIHF world championship, the Stanley Cup playoffs has been Datsyuk’s show to steal.
“At playoff time, nobody has injuries. Everybody still plays. This is like, why NHL is so good.” - Pavel Datsyuk
And he’s making off with it like a bandit.
“I didn’t think he was great early, but I thought he was outstanding in the third period,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Datsyuk’s Game 5 performance.
“He really dug in and competed.
“Obviously, he’s a world-class player.”
In a class by himself, some would suggest.
“It’s interesting as you watch the playoffs,” Babcock said. “There’s lots of nice players in the regular season, they’ve got good skill level and all that. But if you don’t have a drive train, if you don’t compete at the highest level, you can’t win at this time of year.
“It’s all about digging in and winning that simple little battle and that’s what Pavel does.”
Datsyuk’s 13 points put him second in the Stanley Cup playoff scoring, tied with San Jose’s Ryane Clowe and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those three are two points behind Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.
Datsyuk was among the players who advised the airline staff to get heir private plane, Redbird One, serviced and ready for a Game 7 return trip to San Jose..
“Of course,” Datsyuk said, pointing toward the plane. “I have good seats there.”
Without a doubt, he’s been frequently flying in these playoffs.