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The Heads And Hands Of A Hockey Player

from Sean Gordon of the Globe and Mail,

Gush all you want about the magic of Galchenyuk’s toe-drags, Patrick Kane’s crazy dangles, Steven Stamkos’s uncanny one-timer or Pavel Dastyuk’s pickpocket cunning (the general sense among NHL players is the Russian is the da Vinci of hands), just know it’s not strictly about their sticks or the strength and flexibility of their limbs.

It’s about their heads. More specifically, perceptual-cognitive processing.

Research suggests the region in the brain’s temporal lobe that processes “biological motion” may hold the key to unlocking why some players excel at accepting passes in tight spaces, or stickhandling at top speed, or getting off a quick, precise shot.

That’s not to be confused with eye-hand co-ordination.

That’s the downstream process which is thought to live in something called the occipital junction, in the frontal and parietal lobes. The brain is a complicated place.

read on

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OlderThanChelios's avatar

The thing I notice most about Pavel that’s different than most players, even the elite players, is his focus on the puck itself. When he’s chasing a guy down, he doesn’t seem to look at anything but the puck. I’m sure he’s aware of everything else around him, but it’s the puck that he concentrates on.

I think that’s why he knows the precise second at which to reach in and pull it away. And he does it with such accuracy (touching just the puck and not the stick), that the guy often doesn’t even realize the puck is gone. I remember one guy actually “shooting the puck” while Pavel skated away with it in the opposite direction.

Pavel’s “thievery” is always one of the best parts of any Red Wings game.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 10/19/13 at 11:37 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

They say that Gretzky saw the play one second before it happened. Pavel sees it two seconds before it happens.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 10/19/13 at 11:39 AM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Red Winger, are you saying you think Datsyuk is better than Gretzky was?

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Denver on 10/19/13 at 12:06 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Red Winger, are you saying you think Datsyuk is better than Gretzky was?

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 10/19/13 at 12:06 PM ET

I’m too young to have really watched Gretzky in his prime, but if we put the Great One in today’s game and have Pav and Gretzky square off…I bet it would be one helluva one on one within the game to watch.

All that said…to me Z steps up more against individual stars than Datsyuk. Who always seemed to be ‘the guy’ that went up against Crosby in those two Cup battles a few years back?

That may be blasphemous to some of my fellow Wings fans here but again, when you look back at the games, it was Zetterberg who always was in the ‘right spot at the right time’ against certain star players. Sure Pav was always displaying his magic…maybe even covering Z elsewhere on the ice when Zetterberg was doing his thing but…

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 10/19/13 at 12:37 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Red Winger, are you saying you think Datsyuk is better than Gretzky was?

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 10/19/13 at 12:06 PM ET


Pav has a better all-around game. The fact he is a three-time Selke winner says it all.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 10/19/13 at 01:05 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

You are right, MrFluffy.  Z has always been more of a shutdown player.  When they split them up it has always tended to be Z’s line playing the top line from the other team (although this did start to shift last year a bit).  That’s certainly not a knock on Datsyuk, though.  It’s just that what he does maybe doesn’t translate completely into full ice defense in the same way.  He’s more of an opportunist; think of the ball hawk type safety (say… An Ed Reed type) to Z’s shutdown corner role. 

The reason Datsyuk gets more accolades when they aren’t that far apart in terms of overall impact on the defensive side is that no one else can do what Datsyk does, and certainly no one else can do it so artistically.  What Z does that makes him truly special as well is that his style of defensive play is achievable by a select few other guys, but almost none of them are also counted on for as much of the offensive load as he carries.

In that way Z is almost Lidstrom-like.  Nick own trophies because of his points but even as he was winning them, the league as a whole seemed not to understand just how masterful he was defensively.  Datsyuk doesn’t really have a comparison in that way.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 10/20/13 at 04:53 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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