April 10, 2009
The patriarch of hockey journalism Michael Farber wrote an excellent piece about Pavel Datsyuk recently. He quoted Mike Babcock saying: "If you're down a goal in the last minute, who do you want out there -- Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin or Datsyuk? Any of them. But if you're up a goal in the last minute and need to protect the lead, who would you want? You'd want Pav."
The Red Wings haven't had a finalist for the Hart trophy since Sergei Fedorov won it in 1994. The Red Wings also haven't had a 100 point producer since Fedorov's glory days in the Motown. The most impressive fact about Datsyuk's point production is that he plays defense as good as anyone in the NHL.
"It's hard to get 100 points when you pay as much attention to defense as he does. Very few top forwards have that kind of commitment to defense," Ken Holland said recently.
SovSport's Dmitry Shumin and I decided to catch up with tireless Datsyuk, who might very well be the third finalist, together with Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, for the Hart trophy.
Datsyuk discusses playoff pressure, Chris Osgood's place in history, Don Cherry criticism, whatever this "Art Ross Trophy" is and many other topics. And just like in our previous interviews with the unsung Russian superstar, Pavel gave us more of his sense of humor.
Q. The regular season is coming to an end. How are you feeling? Tired?
DATSYUK: You don't get tired from enjoyment. I am doing my favorite job here. Everything is going as planned.
Really? And it seems that even league leaders are playing shaky lately. The Red Wings are up and down.
The season is really long. We were unable to avoid slumps, I have to admit. But the same happened to the Sharks. It is, however, all behind now. We are ramping up. Getting ready for the playoffs.
Not long ago the Red Wings lost a couple of games, giving up eight goals to Nashville and Columbus.
When was that? In the previous life. Well, yes, these things happened. But we forgot about it. We have been working on our mistakes. But trust me, those were great games. Fans were excited! Unfortunately, not our fans...
They say that defense wins Cups. Are you worried about your last line of defense? Fans say that the Red Wings do not have a reliable goaltender.
They also say that you will be unlucky if a black cat crosses the road in front of you. I agree that goaltending is important. Goaltender's play affects the confidence of the entire team. We are working on it, working hard in defense.
On a different note, your goaltender Chris Osgood caught up with Dominic Hasek and has as many wins. He is now 10th in the NHL history. But there is a presumption that Osgood was lucky to play for the great Red Wings.
Awesome! But what's the question?
Maybe if Osgood had played for Nashville, for example, he wouldn't have had these kinds of stats?
I don't want to discuss other people's opinions. Osgood is with us and helped us win at least two cups in 1998 and in 2008. For this already he deserves respect. Why are we discussing this?
OK, let's talk about you. Pavel Datsyuk has 97 points this season with two games remaining in the regular season...
Hmm, maybe let's talk about Osgood again?
Do you know who was the last Red Wing to get 100 points in the regular season?
Someone told me before the last game. It is good that there was no TV camera nearby. Otherwise the entire world would see how my knees were shaking.
We can remind you ...
No, don't. My knees are still shaking.
It was Sergei Fedorov in the 1995-1996 season with 107 points.
Oh, God, why did you tell me this?
Do you have some sort of a psychological barrier? Ovechkin, for example, had a couple of games without scoring before he netted his 50th.
I had a different individual goal before the season started. I had to score 32 goals to set a new personal scoring record. And I did that. Now I just have to calmly get to the playoffs. A lot of people are asking me about 100 points. And I reply: ‘Yes, yes, I am going to try.' But you know, I have more important goals.
Nicklas's knees are also shaking. He has his left knee shaking, and I have my right knee.
Maybe he should put his record off until the beginning of the next season and score his 1,000th point in his home country [when the Red Wings open the season in Sweden]?
You guys have calculated everything for us! We, players, don't have to think about it anymore. I will tell Lidstrom about your suggestion.
For the second season in a row you are leading the league in "plus/minus..."
Are you my enemy? Did you call to jinx me?
We have blue eyes and don't jinx!
I can just feel you blue-eyed, sitting in Washington and sending some energy to me in Detroit!
But in all seriousness, Datsyuk is the most efficient player in the league. It is big!
Here in Detroit we have a lot of great players who we all can learn from. Like, Lidstrom for example. He has like six or seven Norris trophies! I have even lost the count. Thanks to him and all other teammates. We are helping each other. It's only because of that my plus/minus is like that. This is a team stat.
Tell us, what is so special about Detroit that a lot of stars want to play there? Marian Hossa is even considering playing there for less money.
I think that everyone is attracted by the team style of play. The great Scotty Bowman brought this style. A lot of people like "puck moving" hockey. And the Detroit Red Wings as the organization is so great. Your heart is happy every morning when you come to work.
It is difficult for me to compare with other teams. I have never played for another team. And I don't even want to try. I am extremely happy that I am in Detroit.
Not long ago Don Cherry mentioned you as a player who hits people from behind, and that the Red Wings are a boring team. Can you comment on that?
He said what he said. It is his job to light the fire of passion in fans. And actually you have to look at it all differently. I was shown on TV once again! That's cool! Whether they talk good or bad about me, it is still exposure. Thank you, Don Cherry, for promoting me.
Do you think Pavel Datsyuk can receive the Hart trophy?
If I make it as a nominee I will consider it a great achievement. The appetite comes when you're eating. I don't want to guess about the Hart. But it is nice when people see me as one of the candidates.
But you do have to get at least one individual award.
We will see what card will be dealt when I come to Las Vegas.
Who do you think will win the Art Ross trophy?
And what's that?
A prize for the most points in the league.
Then it is obvious. Art Ross trophy will take someone who will score the most points.
I hope it will be Malkin or Ovechkin.
And now even more seriously?
Let me put it on Malkin. He has been leading [the league] for the entire season. Ovechkin won it last year. Let Evgeni win it this year. But this is still very difficult to predict. We have to give them an Art Ross trophy each so that they won't be disappointed.
Have you ever been to Vegas?
Not yet. But I am hoping. Maybe I will meet my Lady Bing again there.
The Russian language version of the entire interview will appear in tomorrow's Sovetsky Sport.