I went to College for broadcasting for a while with aspirations to be a hockey play-by-play guy someday. Not necessarily at the Pro level—after all, my professors always used to joke that I had the looks for radio—but College games on the weekends would have made me happy.
So when I watch the Detroit Red Wings play, and the announcers are forced to come up with descriptions and adjectives for the things that Pavel Datsyuk does on a nightly basis I kind of feel sorry for them.
For the most part it seems they can't help but giggle with delight. I don't think any of us can help it. Datsyuk is that kind of special player that seems to think the game slower, and can make something out of absolutely nothing.
If the NHL has a da Vinci, Datsyuk is it. Albeit a Russian da Vinci, but you get the idea. The ice is his canvas and the puck attached to a string attached to his stick is the brush. And I suppose that would make the rest of us viewers in the art gallery that has become No. 13's endless bag of tricks.
A Marry Poppins sized bag even. Pardon me for mixing metaphors here. Now maybe you see why I feel sorry for the guys having to make the calls up as they go with it. A slapshot from the blueline is one thing. The things that Datsyuk can do with the puck is another explanation entirely.
I scoured YouTube and my memory banks for hours to come up with the top 10 magician-like plays from Datsyuk's stellar career and put them here for your viewing pleasure. Mind you this is roughly two months from the start of the 2011-2012 regular season, and some of these plays will undoubtedly be replaced within a few weeks of that opening puck drop.
But for now, here they are. The top 11 Datsyukian Dekes ever caught on film.
This isn't the prettiest deke we've ever seen from Datsyuk, but it's a fun one because it was one of the first times you realized that this was a special player. This was through the 2002 season, and he was a player on the rise.
Going end-to-end like this is generally reserved for practices, pond hockey, and NHL '12 on the Playstation. Unless you're Datsyuk. In which case you blow through an entire hockey team with ease and bury the puck behind the defenseless netminder.
Again, the poise with which he does things like this is a sight to behold.
There is no goal here, but I don't think that matters much.
After gaining speed in the neutral zone, Pavel sees that the defenders are backing up because of his speed. Instead of driving to the net, or making a low percentage to Helm who is streaking, Datsyuk slams on the breaks, and waits.
My favorite part of the play is at the 12 second mark of the video, where he lifts his leg just a little bit to show "shoot." He then notices Kronwall coming into the play late and a prime scoring opportunity is created out of what started as a typical two-on-two rush.
The little things like that small bicycle kick in-game open up space and time for teammates and leave defenders (and announcers) dumbfounded.
The Humiliation sound effect from the old Quake Arena game popped into my head the second this goal was scored.
Jaromir Jagr tries to get cute coming out of his own zone, and Datsyuk makes him pay in the dearest way. He moves in on Olaf Kolzig and snipes the water bottle, using it as some kind of target dummy.
The thing that blows my mind here is the ease and poise that the guy has while doing this. It isn't like Jagr is a slouch of a hockey player, and Kolzig isn't a bad netminder at all. Yet they were both neutralized within seconds.
Another example of an underrated play, Datsyuk has his stick and legs in 12 different places at once and forces Patrick Kane to turn the puck over at the top of his offensive zone as the final seconds tick off the clock in the second period.
Datsyuk doesn't look tired after being trapped in the defensive zone, while Kane chugs along behind him trying to catch up. It's a breakaway from the redline in, and he puts the finishing touch on the play flawlessly.
This isn't as sexy as some of the other plays, but these little things are what make Datsyuk such an outstanding player.
This play kind of reminds me of this scene for the second X-Men movie.
He was there, and then he's gone. Looking up at the last second, Datsyuk sees Mike Grier getting ready to take a run. At the last second the Magician dematerialized and caused two Sharks to collide. Which is priceless.
Anytime I am having a bad day I watch this clip, and suddenly it isn't so bad.
Peter Forsberg made this move famous long before proficiency in a shootout could win you a hockey game. It was a thing of beauty in 1994, and it's a thing of beauty in 2011. Anytime a player decides to bust this one out with the game on the line it's special.
Of course Datsyuk wasn't satisfied with just using this deke in a one-on-one shootout situation. No, he does it at top speed with a rolling puck and a defending team swarming him.
With simple grace he moves across the goal mouth, and at the last second dangles the puck onto his backhand and shovels it into the net one handed.
I'm sorry, but this is just stupid.
Linus Omark made headlines with this same goal about a year before Datsyuk used the move, but the fact that one did it in an NHL game on National Television makes a bit of a difference. I wanted to shy away from using an abundance of shootout goals on this slideshow, but this one is just too insane to leave off.
Notice that everyone at the end of this goal is standing around trying to figure out what the hell just happened?
The only person who knew where this play was going was Datsyuk. After chipping the puck by an awful defender named Keith Yandle (sarcasm), he wins the race for the puck, slips it between his leg to create a different shooting angle, and pulls the trigger.
Helm, doing what Helm does best, uses his speed to get to the front of the net and bury the rebound. This was really where Datsyuk started to look possessed. This whole series against the Coyotes could make up all 10 of these slides.
Shootouts are cool and all, but I have such a high appreciation for what Datsyuk can do at game speed, and the finish he can put on pucks in close.
This is a prime example of turning nothing into something.
He chases a poor Nashville defender down behind the net, steals the puck, and created a situation for himself where he has enough time to beat up the goaltender for his lunch money before scoring the goal.
This shift more or less combines everything that Datsyuk can do in the offensive zone into a minute long highlight reel. I guess he doesn't strip a defender of the puck, or make an in-between the legs pass, or score, or...well, you get the idea.
Still, this is one of the best examples of how he can take over a shift, and impose his will on defenders with his skill. And the flip from the behind the net? He totally stole that from me. I did it in a roller hockey game once when I was nine.
I should have trademarked it, but I guess I'll allow it.
Try and keep up with the puck in your head. And then try to go outside and replicate it. Odds are, you can't.
This is a special move from a special player. No disrespect to the spin-o-rama or anything, but I still think that this is the best move we've seen since the implementation of the shootout after the lockout. He used it on several poor netminders, and appears to have since retired the move.
After all, if just doesn't seem fair.
Well that makes two of us.
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