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Byng's no surprise

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – For the fifth consecutive year, Pavel Datsyuk has been named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, award annually since 1925 to the player who best exhibits sportsmanship.

Datsyuk, who has two goals and an assist in the Wings’ playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes, has been the Byng recipient for the last four seasons.

On Tuesday, Datsyuk was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy for the third straight season. The NHL Award Show will be held in Las Vegas on June 23.

If Datsyuk wins the Byng, he will become the first to receive the award five straight times, surpassing former New York Rangers center Frank Boucher, who claimed four straight from 1928-31.

Even Wayne Gretzky only managed to win two in a row, and five Lady Byng trophies during an illustrious playing career.

Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said that Datsyuk is the perfect match for the Lady Byng, year after year.

“He’s that kind of player,” Lidstrom said. “He goes out and plays the game hard but he plays it fair. He’s an honest player, and I think it really shows when you watch him game in and game out.”

Datsyuk’s competition for this year’s Byng are no strangers to the Wings’ center. Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis has been a runner-up the last three years, and Dallas’ Brad Richards was a second-place finisher in 2006.

Lidstrom said Datsyuk’s hard work on the defensive side of the game makes everybody else’s jobs easier.

“We all see what he can do offensively with the puck,” Lidstrom said. “But how hard he works defensively, how hard he backchecks, just look at his takeaways he’s had throughout the season, and same thing throughout this season as well. He’s working so hard to come back and take the puck away from the opponents, that it’s fun playing behind him when he does that.”

Yet what makes those defensive plays Lidstrom talked about stand out even more is that Datsyuk achieves them within in the rules. To put into perspective how impressive Datsyuk’s ability of play clean yet superb defensive hockey, take a look at the other two Selke finalists’ penalty minutes. Staal picked up 57 penalty minutes, while Kesler picked up 104.

Datsyuk had 18 penalty minutes this season. Yet he still managed to record 132 takeaways from his opponents – that’s 49 more steals than Kesler, who finished in second.

 Since the lockout, the Wings’ forward hasn’t recorded more than 22 penalty minutes in any single season.

His clean style has left an impression on his former teammates, as well. Phoenix’s Robert Lang, who played with Datsyuk from 2003-07, said it’s easy to tell why he invited annually to the league’s awards show.

“I think Pavel is one of the best all-around players,” Lang said. “Obviously everybody knows him for his skills and his ability to make plays and make the people around him better, but he’s probably one of the better defensive players as well with the skills. So rightfully so that he wins the trophies every year.

“And you know, I think he is one of the better players if you’re talking two-way or whatever you want to call it, he’s a really smart player and really got himself in a good spot as far as building his game all around.” Managing Editor Bill Roose contributed to this report.
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