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Datsyuk might not realize just how good he's been

Monday, 12.13.2010 / 9:12 AM / Player Profiles

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Datsyuk might not realize just how good he's been
Pavel Datsyuk claims he doesn't remember his struggles from last season, and at the same time probably doesn't realize just how outstanding he's playing right now.
It's not that Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk is choosing to forget how last season went for him. It's just that Datsyuk insists he really doesn't care enough about what happened to remember it.

"Last year is a long time ago and I'm not really into statistics," Datsyuk said. "(We have) a game Monday and I'm looking forward to Monday's game."

Monday's game will see the Western Conference-leading Red Wings going for their third straight win when they host the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).

So if you believe Datsyuk then you believe he has no clue that he had only 70 points in 80 games last season after scoring a career-high 97 in 81 games during the 2008-09 season. And if you buy that, then you also believe he has no idea he already has 36 points in 28 games this season, including 7 points in the last three games and 14 over the last eight.

Sidney Crosby is getting all kinds of publicity (and deservedly so) for his remarkable 18-game point streak that has seen him score 20 goals and 16 assists, but Datsyuk quietly is putting together his own remarkable run and his own remarkable season for the best team in the Western Conference.

This is hardly a surprise, but it is something that deserves to be talked about, too.

"He's always been this good," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told NHL.com. "Crosby is having an unbelievable year and he's putting up numbers that are just ridiculous, but the stuff that Pav can do with the puck is stuff I've never seen and I don't think anybody has ever seen."

We didn't start this trying to compare Crosby and Datsyuk, but we wouldn't be terribly off base to try.

They both are responsible all over the ice. They both take and win a significant amount of faceoffs, though Crosby is in the circle almost twice as much as Datsyuk. Datsyuk doesn't score goals like Crosby does, but Crosby doesn't stickhandle the way Datsyuk does. It's a wash.

"I think Pavel is best in the best games, when it's competitive and it's a two-way game because he's a gamebreaker," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com.

He just as easily could have been talking about Crosby.

"Pavel does everything right, then he's patient, waits for his opportunity and he makes you pay," Babcock continued. "To me that's what a real good player is. Sometimes we get caught up in guys that just score. Guys who just score don't win. Guys who do everything win."

It's no surprise, then, that the Penguins and Red Wings, at least right now, appear on a collision course to meet in the Stanley Cup Final again.

"I don't think there is one guy on this team that wouldn't love to be on his line," Babcock said in reference to Datsyuk. "You're going to get the puck. He's a great two-way player and he shares the puck. He's creative, makes plays and yet he doesn't turn the puck over. To me he's an easy guy to play with. Some high-end players as we know aren't the easiest people to play with."

Crosby isn't one of those players, but this is a story about Datsyuk, so we'll stick the point.

Babcock said Datsyuk is an easy guy to play with because he's the one who does all the work.

"He's one of the most skilled players in the League, but his work ethic is second to none," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom told NHL.com. "Look at the takeaways he gets -- a lot of them are from backchecking, coming back, stripping guys of the puck. That's just hard work. With all the talent he's got he's working hard and it's paying off for him, too."

It's paying off this season in bigger numbers, but Babcock is quick to point out that Datsyuk's 70 points last season were just as valuable to the Red Wings as his 36 points have been so far this season and his 97 points were in 2008-09.

When he puts them into context, Babcock can surmise that Datsyuk would have been close to a 100-point player last season if he simply had the support he has this season, thanks mostly to his chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

"Pavel didn't have the same support last year because we didn't have the players to support anybody," Babcock said. "We chased and chipped it for 60-some games. This year we've been healthy. Our back end is way better because we're healthy. We have way more depth. We score way more. Last year we were way down in scoring compared to our normal."

And yet, the Red Wings still had 102 points and reached the Western Conference semifinals.

Datsyuk, by the way, had 13 points in 12 games last spring.

Did somebody say something about his regular season?

"I have a short memory," Datsyuk said smiling, knowing the Red Wings are on pace for 120 points this season.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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