Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Scooped by SI

Back in January, I made an argument about why Pavel Datsyuk is the best player in the NHL and has been since the lockout. This year, he's only three points shy of 100 and is having his best year yet. So for me, there's no question he's the choice for the Hart Trophy (MVP) this year. And apparently, more objective observers are starting to notice too.

Datsyuk has more than his share of YouTube highlights—"He can embarrass you wherever the puck is, on his stick or in his skates," Chicago right wing Patrick Sharp says—but, of course, that does not distinguish him from other stars such as Washington's effusive Alexander Ovechkin, whose celebration after his 50th goal last month lacked only pom-poms and a Sharpie, and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Datsyuk, who has yet to score 35 goals or total 100 points in a season, had a career-high 32 goals and 63 assists through Sunday. He was 13 points back of the league-leading Malkin and 23 goals behind Ovechkin, who is favored to repeat as the MVP.

But if you are willing to wade a little deeper into the statistics, you don't need 20-20 vision to see that Datsyuk is the most efficient—and arguably most productive and valuable—of the Russian troika.

Datsyuk averages 19 minutes, 14 seconds of ice time a game, almost four minutes fewer than Ovechkin and about three fewer than Malkin. Of those 19-plus minutes, he spends an average of 3:26 on the power play (about two minutes fewer than the other two with the man-advantage) and 1:37 on the penalty kill (about 30 seconds more). Babcock also tends to use Datsyuk's line against opponents' most dangerous threesomes. Thus, Datsyuk not only plays less overall, he also gets significantly fewer minutes in prime scoring time. Still, he averages more points a minute than either Ovechkin or Malkin.

Throw in Datsyuk's first-rate 56.7 face-off percentage, and it becomes clear that his ability to accomplish so much in so little time should get him into the Hart Trophy debate.

That's from Michael Farber's new article in Sports Illustrated this week. The whole piece is great, as it highlights Pavel's hilarious commercial fame and talks up my favorite player in the league. And, because I can, I prefer to think Farber must have looked at my argument before writing his own story. Either that or he's saw The Triple Deke's new poll, which could be the best, and least arguable, thing I've ever seen.

The Red Wings have three games left before the season's over, and then the playoffs start on April 15th. I'm pumped slash terrified. It's about time to board the good ol' A2Y stress train (#23)...

Oh, and it's Masters week. Quite possibly the best week of the year. I'm thinking Tiger, as usual, but Cool-New-Look Lefty will definitely be up there too. Some guys to watch for are Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson though...I just have a good feeling about 'em.

1 comment:

OneSeason said...

Alex Ovechkin will lead the Caps past the Wings in the Stanley Cup!