September 26, 2008
Since he left the Pittsburgh Penguins, every word out of Detroit Red Wings winger Marian Hossa's mouth comparing the two Stanley Cup finalists has rightly received intense scrutiny. There hasn't been this much reading between the lines since Robert Downey, Jr. flipped through the script to "U.S. Marshals" in between rehabs.
In the past six months, the speedy winger has had the opportunity to play with arguably the two most creative centres in hockey in Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and his new pivot man in Detroit Pavel Datsyuk "They're different players," Hossa said in comparing the two. "Sidney is more a skater and Pavel is more a playmaker."
Hossa has also found Datsyuk the more unpredictable of the two. The 29-year-old Slovak star admits he's quickly learned not to try and anticipate, just be ready to react when riding shotgun with Datsyuk.
"He's a great passer," Hossa said. "He always gets the puck to you. You just have to make sure you get open. ... You don't even have to say anything, he sees you even when you're behind him. "Basically, you just get ready for the shot."
Two interesting stats from last season, from Behind The Net: Datsyuk averaged 2.76 points per 60 minutes, while Crosby blew the doors off him with an average of 3.38.
On the power play, it's a reversal of fortune: Datsyuk averages 5.74 points per 60 minutes, while Crosby averages 5.02. (Taking into account that Crosby's injury last season muddled some of these numbers.) So they both have their virtues.
Offense aside, is Datsyuk a better overall player than Crosby? Well, Datsyuk's defensive credentials can't be denied. But he's not the goal-scorer Crosby is, and he's certainly not the leader Crosby is, on or off the ice.
Like Hossa said: Different players. There's simply no way you wouldn't take Crosby first if you were building a team; but if you had to win one game, perhaps this comparison is a little closer.
Depending on the rest of the team, of course.
George James Malik has it right when it comes to Datsyuk as an offensive pivot: "Pavel doesn't like players to let him know they're open, no yells, no lifting the stick, just get open, that's his mantra." He's a center that relies on instinct, and the inherent trust that his linemates will do their jobs.
In the end, Crosby is always going to be a player who (like Mario before him) will make his linemates better -- at least that's what the Penguins are praying for with Miro Satan.
Can the same be said of Datsyuk? Or is he more a product of the talent around him?
Speaking of the talent around him: What's the over/under on Hossa's goals this season? Because hitting 50 for the first time should be, in theory, within reach.