Datsyuk boosts Red Wings' depth in Game 5
Once we get this deep into a series, it's all about spark, life, a new burst of adrenaline. And the Red Wings are hoping that that injection of testosterone comes in the package of Pavel Datsyuk, leading scorer in the regular season with 32 goals and 97 points and out since Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago.
We saw the depth up the middle from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4, when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal all scored and made other key contributions in the Pens' 4-2 victory.
Now, that Detroit depth we've talked about all throughout the playoffs should become even more of a strength with Datsyuk back to add to the Red Wings' top six. He apparently won't rejoin linemates Marian Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom. It appears Pavel will start on the wing on the team's No. 1 line with Valtteri Filppula centering and Hossa on the other wing with the series.
"We're going to start him that way," coach Mike Babcock said Saturday morning. "We're going to see how he does. If he looks like himself, he'll be in the middle. We need that checking center back. I think somebody called him that the other day."
Hossa and Holmstom have been ho-hum in the Final. Thus the potential line switch. Regardless, Zetterberg's minutes shouldn't wear him out with Pavel putting in his minutes. And that depth, the Wings would like to think, becomes an embarrassment of riches. With the movement of Filppula to wing on the line with Datsyuk and Hossa or back to his normal third line role with Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson, you can see an even stronger Detroit lineup.
Darren Helm is another of those valuable moving parts -- either working between Hudler and Samuelsson or going back to the fourth line, where he can bang and bring energy even more than he did on the third line.
"We'd like Pav to have the puck for 18 or 20 minutes like he normally does," Babcock said. "When he has the puck, they don't have it. It's not even playing defense, you just have the puck. Plus you're faster coming out of your zone. You're faster in the neutral zone. He is up for the Hart Trophy, too."
Time to hear from the ultimate villain -- Penguins fans have got to be gloating now. Marian Hossa, who left the team in free agency after scoring 26 points in the playoffs and helping Pittsburgh get to the Final, ostensibly signed on with the Red Wings to win a Stanley Cup. Now, he needs to help his new team.
Stats? -- We know that teams losing Games 1 and 2 on the road face that 31-1 number -- with the 1971 Montreal Canadiens being the only team to overcome an 0-2 deficit such as that. However, in the 19 previous Final series tied 2-2, the club winning Game 5 has won the Cup 14 times.
The five clubs that successfully overcame a Game 5 loss were the 1950 Red Wings, the 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1971 Canadiens, the 2001 Colorado Avalanche and the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning.
It should also be pointed out that home teams come into Game 5 with a 4-0 record in the series. That's the third time since 1978 that that's happened. Montreal and Boston were in that situation in 1978 and Babcock's Anaheim Ducks had the same setup against the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
The real power play -- Babcock came down hard on his team's power play in Game 4. No life. Plus, giving up a tide-turning shorthanded goal to Jordan Staal. That could change with Datsyuk back for Game 5.
"That power play sucked the life out of us," said Babcock.
The power of the Pens came through another way in Game 4, when Bylsma put Malkin and Crosby out there together -- and it resulted in a goal.
So, coach, why don't you use Sid and Geno together more often?
"Why don't I do it more often?" Bylsma said repeating the question. "Sometimes their focus when they're together can be all on offense. That can be a distraction to playing the right way. Our team is very strong when we can have three centers like that. You know, with Sidney and Geno and Jordan (Staal) coming down the pipe, it's tough to handle.
"If they were on the same line and they put one checking line out against them, then they have their best checkers against our forwards and they'd be chasing us around all night long. When I put them together, sometimes it's a need for more offense. We've done it a couple of times in this series, and fortunately in this situation you can see what the two can do."