Pavel Datsyuk scored a stunning goal last week on Carey Price. (Getty Images)
"There were only two places for me to shoot," he said after the game. "Over the glove or through the five-hole."
Datsyuk had no other options because of Hal Gill. Watch the Russian's left leg as he skates in on Price. As both Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy pointed out on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, he uses that skate as a shield against Gill's extended stick. Datsyuk knows Gill can't catch him on foot, so a sprawling dive is the only possibility.
Because the defenceman is a high-effort player, Datsyuk and Price know Gill is going to make that dive. Like his attacker, Price knows that will prevent a cut to the middle.
In the end, Datsyuk decides to go high. How many people in the NHL can put it there?
"Maybe six," Price guesses. "Two," says another Canadien. "Datsyuk and Sidney Crosby."
There probably are about six, but they've got to be guys with pretty straight blades. The Sedins, for example, would qualify.
"It's a great compliment that I would be considered one of those players," Datsyuk said.
If you're building a franchise, Crosby has to be the number one pick. But Datsyuk might just be number two.
NON-HOCKEY THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
If Gary Carter went into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Expo, can someone please explain why Dave Van Horne is entering as a Marlin?
1) In every profile written this year about Guy Boucher, there is mention of his master's degree in sports psychology. "Everything he says, he's thought about," Steve Stamkos told The Globe and Mail in October. Linus Omark's shootout winner gave Tampa its fifth loss in seven games. Less than 24 hours later, the Lightning were facing Vancouver on Markus Naslund's jersey retirement night. Is it possible that Boucher wasn't really upset with Omark, but knows a terrific motivational opportunity when he sees one?
2) The day before that game, Omark blasted a shootout slapshot past Devan Dubnyk in practice. Asked about it after by CBC's Min Dhariwal, Dubnyk said he didn't move because he didn't want to be in one of Omark's YouTube videos.
3) NHL teams looking for goalie coach help should contact Eli Wilson. Kind of a scapegoat in Ottawa last season, Wilson's long-time client base includes Carey Price and Tim Thomas. He can't take full credit - Pierre Groulx (Montreal) and Bob Essensa (Boston) have enormous influence, too - but Wilson's involvement makes for quite a resume.
4) Watched the Alexei Kovalev scrum that got him into trouble. The moment I heard the questions, I could envision the 18-car pileup. Ask any reporter who's spent time with him: when Kovalev talks, he's brutally honest. But, his idea of playing well is completely different than everyone else's. Colin Campbell once said Kovalev is more interested in artistry than scoring. Cory Clouston learned what all his previous coaches have: you get seduced by his talent, then driven nuts by his differing philosophy on how to use it.
5) Solution? Find one media member to defend Kovalev. In 2004, I was working the Boston-Montreal playoff series. The Canadiens fell behind 3-1 with a Game 4 overtime loss when Kovalev seemingly faked an injury, allowing Glen Murray to score on a breakaway. The winger was publicly trashed. The one guy who came to his defence? Former teammate Glenn Healy, working for Hockey Night in Canada. At the morning skate before Game 5, Kovalev skated up to him, said he appreciated what Healy did, and added, "I'm going to show you right." He had four points in the last three games, including assists on both Montreal goals as the Canadiens won the deciding Game 7.
6) The toughest thing about being around coaches who are in trouble? Watching the assistants. They don't make as much money and have less power over their futures. It tears into them more than it does the head guy.
7) If an organization is going to make it known that the coach better win tonight or else, I've always thought you might as well put him out of his misery. However, Jim Rutherford all but told Paul Maurice that if Carolina didn't beat Florida on Dec. 8, 2001, he was a goner. The Hurricanes won 3-2, Maurice kept his job, and the team went to the Stanley Cup Final.
8) Surprised how many tweets I got asking whether Markus Naslund should have his number retired. Just because a franchise has never won shouldn't mean it doesn't honour its best and most community-minded.
9) As for Pavel Bure, I'd wager on it happening for a couple of reasons. First, Mike Gillis was Bure's agent during his departure from Vancouver, so he's sympathetic to what happened. Second, that was the Mike Keenan era, which the Canucks want to erase from memory.
10) Mattias Ohlund said Naslund was the most competitive person he'd ever played with, but also had a great line about how "he's the only guy I know that is 37 and still puts highlights in his hair."
11) If you believe one man's injury is another man's opportunity, these are important times for Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. Tom Renney put Gagner with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, while Cogliano will face the other teams' best lines. Can they rise to the challenge? Do wonder, though, if it would be better to play Cogliano with the rookies, because he carries the puck less than Gagner. Not sure how he'll mesh with them.
12) That Washington loss in New York (7-0 Rangers) was so bad, I thought Mike Shanahan was coaching.
13) The concern I have for the Capitals is this: Of all the really good teams in the NHL, they are the most fragile. Bruce Boudreau is tough on his goalies, but everyone else gets a lot of freedom and encouragement. Despite that, there's a kind of "Woe is me attitude" when things go bad.
14) You also have to wonder if the players truly believe in any of those goalies. It's similar to Jimmy Howard in Detroit. He played well last year, but really won everyone over with the Game 7 win in Phoenix. It finished 6-1, but was scoreless into the second. He made a couple of big saves on the road before the Wings busted through Ilya Bryzgalov. Semyon Varlamov has a similar victory, but it seems like eons ago.
15) Jacques Martin stayed in South-western Ontario for an extra day to watch Max Pacioretty score his AHL-leading 17th goal. Then, he took the winger back to Montreal with him. Pacioretty's done a lot to address questions about maturity. In Hamilton, he's spent a lot of time after practice with college roommate Aaron Palushaj working on tips and rebounds, placing sticks/buckets on-ice to simulate going around checkers. He's been very positive, which is why, this time, Pacioretty is ready.
17) Don't believe for a second that referee Marcus Vinnerborg was biased in calling the Montreal-Detroit game. (The Canadiens were livid about a third-period non-call, and power plays were 6-1 for the Wings.) Do believe, however, shaking hands with Johan Franzen was bad optics. "He's a good ref," said another official. "But I'm sure (the league) will talk to him about that."
18) The Canadiens were proud of how well they played Detroit five-on-five. That's nice, but look at the next night. While Montreal coughed up a hairball in Toronto, the Wings jumped on New Jersey. That separates the good from the great.
19) We'll see how this plays out, but, as it stands now, if the Wings wanted Mike Modano back next season, I think he'd say yes. It's taken a few months, but everyone realizes now leaving Dallas was good for both him and the Stars.
20) Pierre LeBrun has a good piece coming out this week on Nicklas Lidstrom, featuring quotes from Bobby Orr. There hasn't been a lot of good, detailed stuff on Lidstrom (aside from Scott Oake on After Hours) and it might be because people improperly think he's a bad interview. He doesn't scream for attention, but he's arguably the most insightful player in the league.
21) Lidstrom, by the way, is a fan of PK Subban's. "I've watched a few of his games," he said after Friday's 4-2 win over Montreal. "I like the way he moves the puck...he has a lot of potential."
22) Chris Osgood similarly complimented Price, calling him "The Canadian Ryan Miller." He's referring to Price's poise and calmness under fire. Osgood couldn't believe how composed Price looked as Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg exchanged the puck on a five-on-three. Even though Lidstrom later scored, he said Price played it perfectly.
23) Several Montreal veterans spoke to Subban over the past week. Got the sense they were supportive, but also honest. Among the messages: "This is a business, and you have to get used to that," and "This is about team, not individual."
24) Very smart for Nikita Filatov to go to AHL Springfield without complaint. Filatov had problems with Ken Hitchcock, his Russian junior coach and his KHL coach. At some point, it's not the other guy's fault.
25) Scott Arniel apparently banned the Blue Jackets' third jersey after the team went 0-4 wearing it. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the schedule of games it's supposed to be worn has disappeared from the website, which is pretty funny. Bob Gainey similarly torched Montreal's barbershop jerseys for the same reason.
26) Matthew Hulsizer made all the right comments about being in it long-term in Phoenix, but that seems a little hollow now that we know he's getting an obscenely good lease. A better indicator: Does Bryzgalov get signed?
27) Brian Rafalski got hit twice going back for pucks against Nashville last Wednesday. If Jonathan Ericsson doesn't get it no matter what side it goes to, Mike Babcock is displeased. Same goes for Brad Stuart and Lidstrom.
28) You've probably seen one of those 1,000 game pre-game ceremonies the league does for anyone who reaches that milestone. Well, now the NHL is giving players plaques - complete with lineup card - to anyone who plays their first game. It's a really nice touch. You needed a wide-angle lens to photograph Dana Tyrrell's smile upon receiving his.
29) Andrei Markov's next contract negotiation is going to be complicated. He's eligible to receive performance bonuses, but because the CBA ends after the 2011-12 season, all bonuses count immediately against the cap. (Normally, they would carry over into the following year to see which are actually earned.) With so many teams already in a crunch, it's going to be tough.
30) Still can't believe how some players don't understand that doing interviews in another language doesn't mean they won't be translated into English. Alexander Frolov has to be smarter than that.
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