Some thoughts after Games 1-3:
• Alex Ovechkin is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy this year and the first two games of this Stanley Cup Final have shown why Pavel Datsyuk has no chance to win over Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin. It’s not that Datsyuk isn’t as talented (he is) or at times as dominant (he is) as the other finalists. He happens to play on a team that is so deep and so versatile that it can win back-to-back games in the Stanley Cup Final without him in the lineup. Imagine the predictions for this series if Datsyuk was healthy and Malkin was out of the Pittsburgh lineup. Imagine the Capitals without Ovechkin in their last series against the Penguins. Datsyuk has a better shot at the Pearson Award (same three finalists as the Hart) which is given to the most outstanding player in the league as voted by members of the NHLPA. Any player that can get 100 points and compete for the Selke as the NHL’s top defensive forward is indeed a special player.
• Datsyuk skated Wednesday at Mellon Arena with the rest of the Red Wings. He mostly coasted around the ice but then he picked it up for a few drills. He looks far from 100 percent and the problem seems to be that he can’t push with any power. With the Wings leading the series 2-1, I think they will hold him out until Game 5 on Saturday. Detroit has already proven it can win without him and they might risk losing him for the rest of the series if he tries to come back too early.
• NHL Network has done a terrific job of complementing the game coverage in the U.S. by NBC and Versus. If you haven’t been watching, NHL Network’s On The Fly
show has been originating from Detroit and Pittsburgh. They do a one-hour pre-game show as well as live post-game coverage. The network has included Joe Micheletti and I for a segment on each pre-game show. The European countries that are carrying our call on NHL International are also carrying the NHL Network pre- and post-game shows. It’s tremendous exposure for the NHL.
I’ll check back in later in series!