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Rivalry Night Faceoff: Malkin-Datsyuk

Wednesday, 04.9.2014 / 10:20 AM ET / News
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Rivalry Night Faceoff: Malkin-Datsyuk

To help celebrate NBC Rivalry Night, NHL.com will look at a rivalry within the rivalry of the featured game on Wednesday nights. For this week, we are trying to determine which superstar Russian center will have the biggest effect on his team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings.

It's been a star-crossed season for Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings. Injuries have taken their toll on the superstar centers. But as the Stanley Cup playoffs approach, each are doing what they can to positively impact their team.

Datsyuk returned to the lineup April 4 after a five-week absence to allow an injury to his left knee to heal and will use the last days of the regular season to fine-tune his game for the postseason.

Malkin continues to work his way back from a broken foot sustained March 23 against the St. Louis Blues. The team hopes Malkin is ready for the first game of the postseason, but that remains to be seen.

At full strength, Malkin and Datsyuk are game-breakers that have the ability to carry a team to a Stanley Cup. But will one of them have more of an effect on their team?

PIT

Evgeni Malkin
2013-14 stats
G-A-P: 23-49-72
PIM: 62
+/-: 10

Pavel Datsyuk
2013-14 stats
G-A-P: 16-18-34
PIM: 6
+/-: -3

DET

Malkin hasn't been able to put out his best effort in the regular season due to injuries sidelining him for 19 games and counting. He's still produced when healthy, with 23 goals and 72 points in 60 games.

Where Malkin always has showcased himself is in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In six playoff seasons, he's hit double-figures in points four times and scored at least 10 goals twice.

Malkin has been at his best in the Penguins' two deepest runs. In 2007-08, his second time through the postseason, he had 10 goals and 22 points in 20 games, and his three game-winning goals were tied for third in the League when the Penguins advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. In Game 6 of the fnals against the Detroit Red Wings, he scored the Penguins' first goal and set up their second in a 3-2 loss.

One year later he was even better. He was second in the League with 14 goals, and his League-leading 36 points are the seventh all-time for one playoff season, and the most any player has scored since Wayne Gretzky had 40 points in the 1993 playoffs. He had two goals and six assists in seven games against the Red Wings in the Cup finals, and his effort earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason.

Malkin was a point-per-game scorer in the 2013 playoffs, finishing with 16 points in 15 games, tying Kris Letang for the team lead.

In 83 playoff games, Malkin has 36 goals, including eight game-winners, and 97 points.

There was a time in Datsyuk's career that he was seen as a player unable to turn his game up in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Those days are long gone, however.

Datsyuk had three goals in 21 games as a rookie when the Red Wings won the 2002 Stanley Cup. Those were the only goals he scored in his first four playoff seasons, however, and in his first 42 playoff games he had three goals and 12 points.

He began to shake his playoff label during Detroit's run to the 2007 Western Conference finals. He had eight goals in 18 games, including two in the third period of Game 6 against the Anaheim Ducks to get the Red Wings within one goal in a game they ended up losing.

The following season was Datsyuk's best. He was third on the team with 10 goals and his 23 points were second to Henrik Zetterberg. He scored the winning goal in the Red Wings' Game 6 win against the Dallas Stars to close the Western Conference finals, and after being shut out in the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals against the Penguins, he had four points in the final three games as the Wings won the Cup. In the Cup-clinching win in Game 6, he had two assists, including the primary one on Zetterberg's winning goal.

In 140 playoff games, Datsyuk has 103 points, eighth among active players. Though his playoff career scoring average of 0.73 points per game is impressive, his past seven trips to the postseason have been outstanding, with 88 points in 98 games for a 0.90 points-per-game average.

Verdict: Malkin and Datsyuk have proven to be major playoff performers during their stellar careers. Datsyuk will be relied upon more with Zetterberg unlikely to play after back surgery, but the health of his knee will go a long way toward determining what kind of performance he's able to have. Malkin likely will have a bigger impact on the Penguins' fortunes when he returns to his usual role as second-line center. With Sidney Crosby playing on a different line, Malkin won't see the same level of competition, which could allow him to flourish.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80