Detroit Red Wings fans are blessed. They are blessed to be able to watch the wizardry, the magic, dare I say the grace of a (hockey) god that is Pavel Datsyuk.
I'm almost ashamed to say that my religious (aka hockey) affiliations keep me focused more on the Eastern Conference. I'm ashamed only because I know that I'm missing a lot of great hockey. And while the Red Wings may not be the best team in the Western Conference, or even the Central Division, the presence of one Russian makes me yearn for more Detroit hockey in my life.
There are people who love the goals. Everyone loves themselves a great goal.
And then there are people who love the passes.
Call me an elitist, but those that cherish the goals above the passes do not know the true brilliance of the game.
Friday night, January 25, 2013, somewhere between 9:05 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. EST, and exactly 12:56 into the second period of a thrilling, goal-laden contest between the Minnesota Wild and the aforementioned Detroit Red Wings, I witnessed the greatest pass I've ever seen.
The Red Wings goal started on a play that came off of the end of a Detroit penalty kill.
Niklas Kronwall left the box at the expiration of his Hooking penalty and headed toward his defensive zone, as the Wild had pressure on from their power play. When the Red Wings gained control and moved up ice, Kronwall could head to the bench to get a third forward on the ice.
It just so happens that player was newly anointed captain Henrik Zetterberg, a good guy to pass the puck to.
Let's start with a few key points:
- All else equal, a pass that is made on the backhand, as opposed to the forehand is a more impressive pass. The curvature of the stick's blade makes everything more accurate from the forehand side.
- All else equal, a backhand pass that is twice as long as another is essentially twice as impressive. Whereas I don't necessarily see that as the case for a forehand pass, given the difficulty to generate power on the backhand.
- When a player jumps off the bench to join the play, those on a rush are at a disadvantage for a couple of key reasons
- When players go for changes, the timing of a rush gets disrupted and decreases the likelihood of a good scoring chance
- Players on the rush don't necessarily know who is coming onto the ice. Knowing your teammates and where they like to be goes a long way into playmaking
When Pavel Datsyuk gained control and headed down the right wing, he somehow felt his teammate on the far boards. With perhaps a quick glance, Datsyuk fired a tape-to-tape gem across the ice.
It was a rocket. It was an arrow. It was a beaut!
And then Zetterberg found a way to score.
Actually, Zetterberg made one hell of a play, a patient play, and made the pass so noteworthy.
But more importantly, through all of the games I've played, watched, even dreamt about, I haven't seen a better pass in my life.
Friday night, I think I'll pay homage and order a White Russian.