"He hasn't scored the same, but he hasn't had the same players around him. We're the team who had to check all year to get wins, because we're so depleted with injuries. We had to check, check, check, check. He did that. And that's why we could win," said Coach Mike Babcock. "Pavel, I think, is the best two way center in the world. And now as we have the puck more, he'll score more."
Babcock also said Datsyuk's play is improving.
"His last game was one of his better games of the year. The one against Chicago. And I am not talking about the goal in the shootout. I am talking about his overall game. I thought he was excellent the other game. I thought he was excellent against San Jose.
Pavel Lysenkov from Sovetsky Sport and I caught up with Pavel Datsyuk after the morning skate yesterday in D.C., before the Wings dropped a decision to the Washington Capitals. We spoke about Detroit's injury-plagued season, the quality of its goaltending, Datsyuk's own struggles, the Winter Games in Vancouver and other topics; beginning with one of the most memorable shootout goals of the season.
Q. Your goal in the shootout against the Chicago Blackhawks, was this your improvisation?
DATSYUK: I think it is difficult to do this by simply improvising. It's something you have to try and work on. You don't want to end up in a stupid situation, let your team down and not score. To be honest, I had been working on that shot but was afraid to do it before the game against the Blackhawks. You try to come up with something new all the time. It's difficult.
Was this a variation of the penalty shot you scored on against the Dallas Stars?
That's when it actually started. If the goalie guesses where I move, at least I would have a small alternative option.
It's like you make fun of goaltenders.
Oh, no. Not at all. Everyone wants to score. And I am happy that I managed to score like that, that people talk about it a little bit. But the main goal was to score. Especially in such a game against Chicago. We already lost three games to them this year.
No, there was no competition. We were all consumed by the game. We wanted to win that game.
Was that goal your version of dangle-dangle?
There're so many people watching you. And NBC was there. So, you try to think how to score, but there are also other things.
Does it mean that you actually think about being on national TV?
No, no, no. It's not like that. It was just a supplement. I try to turn the attention from myself to the TV broadcast.
Where would this goal rank in your chart of best goals?
I don't do that, I don't create charts. I am just looking at trying to play better, get more points. I began this year with a gallop, like a bad horse. Only a bad horse starts with a gallop. And now I am still trying to get back to it.
Because you were injured.
Now you can come up with a lot of excuses: the world is not perfect, the ice is not good. But everything depends on me.
It's like a bad dream for the Detroit Red Wings with all the injuries you had this season.
I have never actually experienced something like this: whenever there is an injury it drags on for so long. It was like we'd get a couple of players back, and someone would get injured and be out of the line up at the same time.
And all of the injuries on your team were to key players like Franzen, Filppula.
Yes, very important players. But on one hand it's bad, but on the other hand we look to the bright side. Now we have a lot more experience...
More experience? How can you get more experience when you have won pretty much everything?
You can always get better. We have only played half a season.
Right now your team is outside of the playoff picture. The most interesting hockey will start after the Olympics?
We are fighting for a spot even now. I think it's interesting that we're not in the playoff picture now, and I think people are following this. But I tell you that it's not like we planned it.
Your coach Mike Babcock said that the game against Chicago was your best this season.
Thanks a lot to the coach for these compliments. It's always very nice to hear that. Especially that you translated it for me, because I wouldn't be able to do that myself. I don't know how to translate. But I hope that we will keep revving up and get better from game to game. Maybe improvise more.
Then we will see good ol' Datsyuk.
Good and kind?
Do you talk with Babcock about the upcoming Olympics over a cup of coffee some evenings?
I think this is a wrong question to ask. Everyone, of course, thinks about the Games, but not as much and we will all think about it when February comes along. There's still time... The best memory for me about the Olympic games was when I was called up for the first time. It's a great feeling, because I think every player strives to play there. When you make the Olympics team you realize that you have taken a step towards achieving something great.
Theoretically, if I am put on their line I will try to help them any way I can by helping them create opportunities up front and clean up at the back.
Do you think there will be a lot of "cleaning up to do" when playing with them?
Regardless of who you play with, this is a job of the center. You, as a center forward, have to think about playing defense. And guys like Ovechkin and Semin will capitalize on the chances they will get. It's about the team first. I don't care where I will have to play as long as we win.
Datsyuk was the last on the bus leaving the Verizon Center after the morning skate. But we agreed to continue out conversation after the game against the Washington Capitals. Towards the end of the third period FSN Detroit showed the results of the poll taken among Detroit viewers. Datsyuk was voted the Red Wings Player of the Game.
After the game Datsyuk and two of his possible lines mates in Vancouver, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, occupied a small room between the two locker rooms for a long chat.
You played really well tonight but still came up short.
It's the game. But we got some experience. Players have started to come back from injuries, the overall atmosphere has improved and we have been plying better and better from game to game. But there's nothing to show for it yet. We had so many chances, so many power plays, and couldn't score. We lost the game because of our play. You could have a lot of shots and chances and still lose."
What do you need to do to get out of this situation?
What to do? Not to smoke, not to drink... (joking). We just need to score more. Our conversion rate is not that good now.
It's not the first year that people say that the Red Wings have a problem with goaltending.
People say you'll be unlucky if a black cat crosses the road in front of you... People do talk a lot. But we actually have strong sides and have to use our strongest assets. And I wouldn't actually say that we have big problems. The young goalie is maturing and playing really well. And Osgood too. They have a healthy competition right now.
What does fatigue have to do with this? In the last three years you have played more games than any other team in the NHL.
It all accumulates. I don't know if we have played more than any other team. Life goes on.