Pavel Datsyuk's Injury-Riddled Season Will Motivate Him to Beat Boston Bruins

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IApril 16, 2014

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) skates in an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar

When considering the Detroit Red Wings’ chances of beating the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs, the popular wisdom seems to set the probability scale somewhere around impossible.

Indeed, looking at the expert picks at one sees that not one of the 12 good men and women making these predictions believe Detroit will be playing hockey in May.

Again, this represents the popular wisdom surrounding this series. Hardly any pundits, including hometown beat-writers Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage at expect anything but defeat to come the Red Wings’ way in the first round.

Dec 14, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) trips up as he tries to score defended by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Pittsburgh won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osen

If one were apt to make any wagers on the outcome, only the foolish or irresponsibly reckless bettor would put their money on Detroit. Nevertheless, the Detroit Red Wings may have an ace up their collective sleeve some may not see coming.

Pavel Datsyuk is coming off of his most disappointing NHL season to date. Limited to just 45 games during the 2013-14 regular season, Datsyuk finished the year with just 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists), the lowest totals of his NHL career. Clearly, Datsyuk’s injury troubles and that of his entire team played a part in his decreased production, but even aside from that, it is safe to say that Datsyuk is not the first name the Bruins will be worried about when facing Detroit.

Though the Red Wings beat the Bruins in three-of-four meetings during the regular season, Datsyuk only appeared in two of those games. The last two saw forwards Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist emerge as the most dangerous players for Detroit.

While the regular season record is now meaningless, it is Detroit’s younger players that will enter the series as established threats the Bruins will need to attempt to neutralize.

This isn’t to say that Datsyuk is going to be ignored, but the fact he might be underestimated due to his injury-riddled season might provide the Red Wings with an unexpected edge.

With Henrik Zetterberg sidelined as he recuperates from back surgery, Datsyuk remains as the other half of what is typically a dynamic duo in Detroit. Given his talent and leadership position within the team, it stands to reason that he will be motivated to do whatever is necessary to win against the Bruins.

Head coach Mike Babcock seems to think Datsyuk could be prepared to do just that, as Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press recently reported:

“He looks to me like he’s getting ready to break through, because always before he breaks through, he’s doing good things with the puck, but he’s not quite as quick as normal,” Babcock said. “Pretty soon he’ll start pulling away from people.”

If Babcock is right, and Datsyuk is on the verge of returning to the regularly amazing form that has defined his career, then he just might provide the Red Wings with enough of an edge to put up a bigger fight than the Bruins might be prepared to handle.

A healthy, energized Pavel Datsyuk added to a line-up of similarly focused youngsters in Tatar, Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco is something few teams faced during the regular season.

Now that the playoffs are upon us, what was a disappointing year for the Russian veteran could soon become a distant memory as Datsyuk is surely eager to make up for lost time.