With news breaking of Pavel Datsyuk’s possible departure from the NHL after the 14 seasons, for personal family reasons, fans all across the hockey world voiced their heartache at the loss of one of the most entertaining players the game has ever seen.
Known as the “Magic Man” for his insane stick handling abilities, Datsyuk often made his opponents look silly with mesmerizing moves.
Through his career with the Detroit Red Wings, Datsyuk captured two Stanley Cups, as well as three Frank J. Selke Trophy’s, as the NHL’s top defensive forward, and four Lady Byng Trophy’s, as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player.
At the end of the day, what will Pavel Datsyuk be remembered for? Certainly, it will be as one of the most skilled players to ever take the ice. There have been several “Datsyukian” moments over the year, and these are the five most memorable.
5: Classic Datsyuk Steal and Dangle
One of the skills Datsyuk was best known for was his innate ability to create turnovers. As one of the most creative players in the league, he transferred that gift to the defensive side of his game as well. He was one of, if not, the best at picking the pockets of opponents, and this is perhaps the best exampl:
In continuing to forecheck the Predators into confusion, defenceman, Kevin Klein, tried to hold off Datsyuk and begin a breakout. However, the then 25-year-old doubted Datsyuk’s insane ability to steal the puck, despite being several feet behind the play. Aside from the pickpocket itself, Datsyuk showed tremendous skill to be able to corral the puck and his balance before finding the patience to pull off three quick moves in front of goaltender, Dan Ellis, and finally roofing it off his backhand.
Not only does this moment capture Datsyuk’s unbelievable ability to force turnovers, but also the silky smooth hands that earned him the reputation as the NHL’s best stick handler.
4: The Datsyukian Deke is Born
Datsyuk will always be remembered for his ridiculous moves on breakaways and, most prominently, in the shootout. Of course, pulling off a show stopping move in a game is always much more impressive, and it will likely be a long time until we see something quite like this in an NHL game again:
This is the move Datsyuk became famous for. Nicknamed the “Datsyukian Deke”, he pulled it off a couple of times in a shootout, but only once during a game. As simple as the move may look, it is extremely deceptive to goaltenders, even for Hockey Hall of Famer, Marty Turco. Not only is the stick work something to behold on the backhand drag, but it is the foot work that makes the move so effective. Datsyuk is able to use his edges to cut back across the crease when the goaltender sees only one way for him to go.
This goal will go down as one of the smoothest in-game goals in NHL history. Datsyuk combines his creative mind and hands with deceptive foot work to out-smart one of the best goaltenders of his time.
3: Dancing Through Four Predators End-to-End
While Datsyuk was never regarded as the strongest forward in the game, his skating made him one of the most elusive. He was excellent at weaving through opponents with ease, often with no need of making an incredible dangle to get by:
As a result of that elusiveness, Datsyuk arguably scored the goal of the year for the 2012-13 season with this beauty against the Nashville Predators. Starting from the defensive zone face-off circle, Datsyuk wound up some speed before rushing through the neutral zone. When he approached the Nashville blue-line, he was met by four collapsing defenders. His response was to break through the middle and slide the puck under David Legwand’s stick before finding himself with a few seconds of time and space in front of Pekka Rinne, which he used to squeak a backhand shot far side past the netminder.
The goal was replayed hundreds of times on top 10 lists across the country and often voted as the goal of the year. Once again, Datsyuk put his skating and vision on display to score a memorable, end-to-end goal, beating every Predator on the ice.
2: Unbelievable Flipping Shootout Goal
Datsyuk was able to showcase his surreal talents better than anyone else through the shootout. He not only had the creativity to come up with some incredible moves, but the skill to bring them to life for fans. This is a move that you will only see a few times in your lifetime, and you will remember Pavel Datsyuk as the man to make it happen.
Datsyuk is one of the most creative players in the history of the shootout in the NHL. He has several moves that can make goaltenders look absolutely silly, and that is exactly what he did on this goal. This is a goal you would see players trying in practice for fun but Datsyuk does it with crucial regular season points on the line, and pulls it off.
Antti Niemi does a great job in following Datsyuk’s first move and cutting down his angles. But, leave it to Datsyuk to find space where it doesn’t exist. With no open spot to shoot for, Datsyuk decides to flip the puck up and over a sprawling Niemi, who has no chance at reaching back to make the save, with his momentum carrying him the opposite way.
One would assume that Datsyuk could not possibly one-up this goal, but they would be wrong.
1: The Best Shootout Goal in NHL History
Previously seen in-game, Datsyuk transferred that same move into the shootout, where he would have all the time and space to pull it off successfully. And that he did. While flipping the puck over Niemi may have made the goaltender look hopeless, this takes it to another level. The best shootout goal in NHL history:
Words cannot describe how Tomas Vokoun felt as he lay on his stomach, on the other side of the net, while he watched Datsyuk pot the puck into the yawning cage. In what was a replica of his move against Turco, Datsyuk found a way to make it even more impressive. Once again, his body positioning made Vokoun assume that he had to be going to his left. Instead, Datsyuk pulled off a backhand toe drag while using his skate edges to cut to his right.
This is the goal, and the move, that Pavel Datsyuk will be best remembered for. It is one of the silkiest goals in history and epitomizes the elite talent level of the “Magic Man”. He possesses one of the best sets of hands the NHL has ever seen, and if he does move on from North America after this season, he will be truly missed by fans, teammates, and opponents as well.