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So That's What an MVP Looks Like

By June 7, 2009

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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)


June 8, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(1) george says:

I’m wondering if you have any empirical proof that Malkin is a defensive liability.

June 8, 2009 at 2:43 pm
(2) Jerome says:

george, I think you got your “empirical” proof in game 5. Down three goals – a big hill to climb, no doubt – and Malkin takes a selfish penalty. Game over.

June 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm
(3) proicehockey says:


Despite putting up 35 playoff points as of today, Malkin is only plus-2.

I don’t put a lot of stock in plus/minus, but that’s a low number for a big scorer, and compares badly to the other scorers in the top 5.

It’s also been noted in several places that Malkin has been on the ice for more 5-on-5 goals against than anyone else in the playoffs(he’s tied with two Carolina players).

The most convincing evidence isn’t in the numbers. From watching the games it’s obvious that Malkin only back checks occasionally.

June 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm
(4) george says:

Jerome: not sure how that proves he’s a defensive liability.

proicehockey: Like you, I don’t put much stock in plus/minus, and your second point doesn’t really prove anything either.
Your third point, “From watching the games itís obvious that Malkin only back checks occasionally.”, is just another generalized comment, like the one in the post (“But he’s too often a defensive liability.”) with nothing to back it up. Point me to some shifts where you’ve seen Malkin dog it coming back up the ice on defense, show me some youtubes of him not backchecking. Do something to make your point besides using a generalized view of how you think things are.

June 9, 2009 at 6:57 am
(5) Greg Ballentine says:

Interestingly, some people suggested that Evgeni Malkin should be a Selke Trophy candidate this season. This argument was based largely around his +17 regular season +/-. I bet he does get some votes when the final Selke voting is released.

I would think the truth falls in the middle. Malkin is no Selke candidate, but he is not defensive liability either. It is a relatively small sample size and an indirect metric (+/-) that lead incorrectly to both conclusions.

June 9, 2009 at 8:57 am
(6) Jerome says:

george, the best defense, as we all know is a good offense. No one will argue that Malkin is one of the most gifted offensive players to ever play the game.In a Stanley Cup Final, defense wins. When it is unlikely your team is going to score four or five goals or more per game, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure you are not scored against. On this level, Malkin doesn’t measure up as a good defensive player. Let the game turn into a run-and-gun offensive game and I’ll take Malkin any day. With game 5 as an exception, this series is being decided on TEAM defense. It’s there that Malkin doesn’t make the grade.

June 9, 2009 at 7:08 pm
(7) george says:

Jerome, y initial comment was based on this article using a general statement to characterize Malkin as a defensive liability without any thing to back up that statement. Your statement above “On this level, Malkin doesnít measure up as a good defensive player.” is another general statement. I’m guessing that neither you nor the author have watched Malkin enough to make a fair assesment.

June 9, 2009 at 11:36 pm
(8) proicehockey says:

One big difference between the regular season and post-season: if a team goes deep, you can end up seeing most of their playoff games.

I’ve seen all but one or two of the Penguins games in these playoffs, which is why I trust my eyes.

I’ve seen that Malkin back checks on some nights, and does it very well. But there have been more nights when he doesn’t.

When a stat conforms with what you see, that stat begins to look relevant. That’s why I quoted the numbers in the earlier comment.

If you want to characterize watching the games and drawing conclusions as making a general statement without anything to back it up, well, go ahead. But that’s how I operate.

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