The Malik Report
by George Malik on 02/15/14 at 10:23 AM ET
Updated 6x at 3:11 PM: You may not have liked the result of today's USA-Russia game--3-2 to the Americans via an insane shootout decision--but if you're a Red Wings fan, you had to be enthused by the remarkable play of Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk.
Pavel looks ot have regained
100% the majority of his mobility, his balance, strength and poise, and in perhaps the highest-stakes preliminary round game of recent Olympic memory, he dazzled en route to 2 goals and an absolutely dominant performance against the Americans. Datsyuk keyed the power play, was strong on the penalty-kill, won one-on-one battles for the puck, was incredibly strong on his stick, made fantastic plays and scored two huge goals--though the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reports that he wasn't thrilled with 'em:
His first shootout move was the usual and Quick beat him to the post glove side, the second was back-of-the-net blocker side, and the third wasn't so great blocker side.
With Henrik Zetterberg all but assured of missing games when the Wings come back from the Olympic break and the status of Johan Franzen (concussion) uncertain, holy moly, is it ever a relief to see Datsyuk do his thing again.
Datsyuk played 20:45 over the course of 25 shifts and had 6 shots, finishing at +1 and going 14-and-8 in the faceoff circle.
Update: DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson weighed in with a narrative recap.
Via Paul, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun is with me regarding Datsyuk's form:
Pavel Datsyuk labored through Russia's opening win over Slovenia but he was flying on this day, absolutely for my money the best player on the ice for either team, a dynamite performance like we've seen so many times over the years from the Detroit Red Wings star center. His burst of speed up the middle to open the scoring on a breakaway goal was nothing short of sensational. Maybe a dip in the Black Sea made his lower-body injury all heal up. His wrist shot to tie the game 2-2 in the third period was also a thing of beauty. He looks fine to me now.
Update #2: Pavel, succinct, via the AP's recap:
Captain Pavel Datsyuk scored two goals in regulation and another in the shootout for the Russians, who rallied from a third-period deficit in a fast-paced game. Russia also had an apparent goal waved off with 4:40 left because Quick's net came off its moorings.
"The U.S. team is a good team and a good test for us," Datsyuk said. "We played good, but the result is not good."
Update #3: More Datsyuk from Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov:
“Right now I am still very emotional," Datsyuk told me after the game. “We have not had a chance to think things over yet. Of course we are not happy with the result of the game. But we played well today. We were a team. That’s good.”
Other players supported Datsyuk in saying that the team must find the positives from the loss. “I don’t think that something terrible happened today.” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We tied the game, scored one more to take the lead… I don’t know what happened with that goal. You must always find the positives. But give credit to Team USA – they showed a lot of character. And we will now get ready for the next game. We played well as a team in a difficult game. We played well on defense, as we didn’t give the Americans an opportunity to create chances. Bob played exceptionally well today.”
A lot of questions were asked about the disallowed goal. It appeared that Jonathan Quick dislodged the net that was still sitting on top of one of its moorings while making a save when Evgeni Malkin was charging the net.
Yet the officiating crew allowed the game to continue for a long time, until Fedor Tyutin’s long shot went past Quick for what looked to be the Russian lead. No so fast, said the referees. After watching the replay Tyutin’s goal didn’t count.
“The referee just told me the net was moved before the shot, and that’s why he disallowed the goal.” Pavel Datsyuk told me after the game. Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t complain either as he said “[t]he goal should have been disallowed because that’s the rule. Everybody plays by the rules. It’s OK. I hope we will play them again.”
The Russian penalty kill was also a concern. Alexander Radulov warmed the bench in the penalty box for both of the goals by Team USA. The Russian Coach at the press conference also said that Radulov didn’t have a good game. Yet Radulov himself declined speaking to the media, as he blew past the waiting reporters in the mixed zone of the Bolshoy Arena in Sochi.
“Until this game we had not had a lot of chances to try out our special teams play, especially the penalty kill in the game against Slovenia,” Pavel Datsyuk said after the game. “Today was a really good test for us. I think both the penalty kill and the power play had a good game. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
This was a great game by both teams, worthy of the Olympics. It ended in a shootout that probably deserved a hard fought tie.
“Maybe so, but we just wanted to win so, so bad!” Datsyuk summed up the Russian reaction.
Datsyuk was flying all over the ice in a Group A matchup with the United States, the marquee game of the Olympic tournament's preliminary round, and scored both goals in regulation time before Russia lost in a shootout 3-2.
"Our fans helped a lot," Datsyuk said of the heavily partisan Bolshoy Ice Dome crowd of 11,678 that included Russian president Vladimir Putin. "They gave us lots of emotion and lots of energy. That helped me move. Helped us move all together."
By the end, after T.J. Oshie and Quick combined to give the U.S. the win, Datsyuk had played 20:45, registered six shots on goal and won eight of his 14 faceoffs.
"It's one game," Datsyuk said. "We need to play at same level every time and we'll be OK. Keep going every game better and better."
Russia's ability to do just that rests heavily on Datsyuk's ability to play like he did Saturday, like he has for the majority of his 816-game NHL career.
"I'm OK," he said, before quickly correcting himself. "We, not me."
Update #5: Here's the Free Press's Helene St. James on Datsyuk:
The Detroit Red Wings star player scored three times today at Bolshoy Ice Dome, twice in regulation and again in the shoot-out, leading to numerous hats being fished off the ice. He is playing on an inflamed knee, one that saw him miss five weeks before squeezing in two subpar performances for the Wings right before the Olympic break.
Datsyuk had struggled through a couple of practices after arriving at the Sochi Games, but he played nearly 21 minutes today, including two of the five minutes of overtime.
Datsyuk did not address how he felt physically and kept his postgame comments very short after the 3-2 loss to the U.S. He called the U.S. “a good test for us,” and thanked fans for an energizing reception.
His coach, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said Datsyuk, “performed very well.
“You can talk a lot about him, everyone knows that he is a very talented player, an excellent player who knows how to prepare for the game and today is proof of that.”
Update #6: And here's Yahoo's Nick Cotsonika on Datsyuk:
It was Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk, the 35-year-old with the bad left knee, who poured out his skill and heart for his country as the fans chanted and the flags waved and Vladimir Putin peered down from above. He scored both of Russia’s goals. He danced through defenders, whipped passes, cleared pucks, killed penalties, led. And after going 1-for-3 in the shootout, he took the loss hard.
“Right now I am still very emotional,” Datsyuk told reporters in Russian. “We have not had a chance to think things over yet. Of course we are not happy with the result of the game. But we played well today. We were a team. That’s good.”
Told the game deserved a tie, Datsyuk was not consoled.
“Maybe so,” he said, “but we just wanted to win so, so bad.”
This game will be remembered for the buzz in the building, for how even and how hard-fought it was, for Alex Radulov’s two penalties that led to two U.S. power-play goals. It will be remembered for how Fedor Tyutin appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal for Russia late in the third period, only to have it disallowed because the net was off the moorings. Russian reporters cried conspiracy, because both referees were Canadian and let play continue for a long while before the puck went in. Some thought Quick cheated, because he had slid to his left into the post – and shoved it a little with his glove.
It will be remembered most, of course, for Oshie’s heroics, not to mention Quick’s.
But in the end, it was only a prelim, only an appetizer for the medal round, and the best news for Russia was that they played well as a team and their magician got his mojo back. Besides his two goals, their captain had six shots, second on the team to Ovechkin’s seven, and won 64 percent of his faceoffs in 20:45 of ice time. The Russians lost. But if they can stay at this level, if Datsyuk can be Datsyuk, look out.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” Datsyuk said.
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