– For future hall-of-famer Nicklas Lidstrom
there isn’t any other player who exemplifies the true definition of the Selke Trophy like Pavel Datsyuk
“It takes a lot of hard work,” Lidstrom said. “When you’re back-checking, you’re skating hard to catch the guy, and Pav’s so good at not letting the guy know that he’s right behind him.”
On Tuesday, the Red Wings learned that Datsyuk is a finalist for the Selke – awarded annually to the best defensive forward – for the third straight season. He has won the award the last two years.
Datsyuk will learn if he’s won for a third straight time at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas on June 23.
The category that best lends credence to the award is takeaways, something Datsyuk has turned into an art form. Over the last four seasons, he is the only player to finish each season among the league’s top five puck thieves. Datsyuk was first in three of the seasons, with 2008-09 being the lone exception when he was second to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin by five steals.
Again this season, Datsyuk led the league with 132 takeaways – 49 more than Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, who finished second in the category. Kesler, a Livonia, Mich., native, and Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal are also Selke finalists.
Asked if anyone is better at what Datsyuk does on the ice, Lidstrom said, “That would be Hank”, referring to the other half of the Wings’ Euro Twins, Henrik Zetterberg
“But seriously,” Lidstrom continued, “I think both of them are so strong defensively. They get a lot of recognition for their offense, but Pav has won in the past and he’s very good defensively. Hank does the same thing. He’s very responsible defensively, and has the offensive skills to be a top player in the league.”
If Datsyuk wins the Selke again, he’ll become the first player win three in a row since Montreal’s Bob Gainey won four straight, beginning with the inaugural award in 1978.
Over the last 15 seasons, the Selke has been award to a Red Wings’ player 40 percent of the time, with Kris Draper (2004), Steve Yzerman (2000) and Sergei Fedorov (1994, ’96) also taking home the prize.
While a language barrier often makes communication, even with teammates, difficult, forward Darren Helm
said that he learns from just watching Datsyuk.
“Every day, every game, he does something,” Helm said. “His skill with his stick and his ability to take pucks off of players, the moves that he makes with the puck, are just so unbelievable.
“There are a couple of times where I’m like, ‘Wow!’ ”
The Wings are so accustom to seeing Datsyuk’s on-ice magic, that singling out a particular play isn’t easy. There are just far too many, Lidstrom said.
“I think we’ve gotten used to it now, but his takeaways are what you think of,” he said. “He just as a knack of finding the puck, back-checking hard and lifting a guy’s stick.
“Most players slash or go after a player. They give the puck-carrier a chance to know that they’re behind them. Pav doesn’t do that. He waits until the last second when he can take the puck. He’s the best at it in the league.”