Pavel Datsyuk can't win the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup MVP. His foot injury cost him too many games, and he wasn't scoring much before he got hurt.
But in his return on Saturday night, Detroit's finest looked like the best player in the NHL, which he might be.
Playing for the first time in nearly three weeks, Datsyuk set up a pair of goals, and the official statistics gave him four hits, including a nice open-ice flattening of Evgeni Malkin.
To appreciate all he does, you almost need a dedicated camera (a Pav-Cam?) following him at all times. Certainly, the stats don't fully capture his smothering defense, genius with the puck, or apparent cool under pressure.
On a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary, Datsyuk helped rejuvenate a Detroit team that looked spent in the previous game. The Red Wings forward depth was suddenly restored, and the Penguins couldn't handle it.
He also reminded us that MVPs dominate the game at both ends of the ice.
After watching Datsyuk and company neutralize the Penguins, how could anyone consider Malkin a Conn Smythe candidate?
Malkin is brilliant on the attack, as his gaudy points total proves. But he's too often a defensive liability.
As a complete player, he isn't in the same league as Pavel Datsyuk. But then again, nobody is.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)