Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played together for more than a decade in Detroit.
As the “Euro-Twins” prepare for another stretch of Red Wings hockey, it begs the question: How much do they have left in the tank?
Anyone close with Datsyuk’s situation is aware of his love for native Russia and his intent to finish his hockey career back home. With his current contract up at the end of the coming season, GM Ken Holland ensured that Datsyuk’s time in Detroit would not expire with it.
Given how hard Pav works on his conditioning, day in and day out and Pav's will and determination, I'm comfortable his game will continue to hold where it's at for the term of the contract. He's a world class player. He's in a small conversation of players that you would discuss being one of the best two-way players in the world.
Datsyuk is now 35 years old, but his work ethic is why his age does not show on the ice. In an interview with Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha marveled at Datsyuk’s preparation.
"He has one of the best pair of hands in the league, and he still practices. Little details make the difference."
Zetterberg’s contract has him locked up through the end of the 2020-21 season, which is likely through the end of his career. As the 36th captain in Detroit Red Wings history—and just the third since 1986—Zetterberg is the backbone of the Detroit lineup. He’ll turn 33 on Oct. 9, but he feels his age is not a concern.
When asked by St. James which one of the two has aged better, Hank simply replied, “It’s gotta be me.”
Datsyuk’s first season with the Red Wings was their eventful Stanley Cup championship run in 2002. He played in 70 regular-season games, scoring 11 goals and 35 points. He also contributed three goals and six points in 21 playoff games.
It was the next season that Henrik Zetterberg joined the NHL ranks and clicked when placed on a line with Datsyuk and Brett Hull. The three would adopt the name of the “two kids and a goat” line, a tag established by Hull the year before with Boyd Devereaux in place of Zetterberg. Hull told SI.com in 2003:
I look at Hank [Zetterberg], and I see a first-year guy that has the skill, the composure, the savvy of the game. Pavel—the skill he possesses is mind-boggling. He's only scratched the surface.
Zetterberg scored 22 goals and 44 points in 79 games as a rookie and finished as the runner-up to St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman for the 2003 Calder Trophy. He has produced no less than 43 points in a season—including last year’s lockout-shortened campaign.
Looking ahead into the 2013 season, head coach Mike Babcock has made it clear he intends to put them together—at least for now. Art Regner of FoxSportsDetroit.com quoted Zetterberg:
We'll see how long it lasts this year, but we're real excited that we'll get a chance from the start again. I think also it's a little bit up to us, too. We have to play good. If we don't do that, we're probably going to be split up.
Regner quoted Datsyuk as well, but the Russian superstar appeared more skeptical than his counterpart.
"It’s going to be fun, but every year he (Babcock) say we play together. In the beginning, we play together a little, and they break us."
The two have been paired together on and off over the course of their careers, but recently they have been forced to center their own lines in order to provide depth. When they skate together, they create magic that has established them both as world-class players.
Even at his age, Datsyuk can deke the youngsters onto the seat of their pants (as Logan Couture found out in the video to the right). His dazzling hands, strength with the puck and dedication to defense are what keep him alive in such a fast sport.
Zetterberg has established himself as one of the most complete players in the game. He was the recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 after registering 13 goals and 27 points in 22 playoff games en route to Detroit’s 11th Stanley Cup title in team history.
During last year’s 48-game season, Zetterberg and Datsyuk registered 48 and 49 points, respectively, with each only missing one game. They averaged more than a point per game and led a team that struggled to establish an identity for much of the season to coming just one goal away from the Western Conference Final as the seventh seed.
The two are the dynamic catalyst for Detroit’s success. In the course of a decade, they have evolved from the future of the franchise to the foundation of a Cup contender. They have become indispensable in Hockeytown and a showcase for the rest of the league.
After more than a decade together, the Euro-Twins can still bring out the youth in each other. Perhaps we shouldn’t worry how much is left in the tank; however, the rest of the league should worry how full it remains.