Playoff Slapshots: Datsyuk's mystery slump, Staal wars, more

Monday May 18th, 2009

Some quick observations from here in Detroit:

1. Spotted: Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk in the team's weight room after Game 1, doing a little heavy lifting after Detroit's 5-2 win. We're wondering how much that playoff monkey on his back weighs these days. The Hart Trophy-finalist hasn't scored a goal since April 18, and on Sunday was kept off the score sheet for the seventh time this postseason. For fans who are holding out hope that ole Pav is hiding some kind of injury, don't hold you breath. Doing curl and presses on a medicine ball, he didn't look like he was being hampered by an upper-body injury-- unless of course, you count what seems to be awry in his mind.

"Pavel is a proud guy," head coach Mike Babcock says. "He wants to be leading the team in scoring. He usually does. When he's not, he probably puts some pressure on himself. He's just got to make sure he's not thinking too much and just play the game."

Though he's doing his part on the defensive end -- Datsyuk's four takeaways caused Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane to marvel at the center's two-way abilities -- his 10-game goalless drought matches his longest streak.

2. You can't really say the Blackhawks weren't warned. Back before the season even began, this is how Kane described playing the Red Wings: "You're not out there worrying that you're going to get crushed on a shift. You're worried if you're ever going to touch the puck. You're chasing them the whole game. They make you look stupid."

Detroit did a great job of quieting the second-year tandem of Kane and Jonathan Toews. Shifty winger Kane, who is known for his patience with the puck and his ice-vision, was held shotless and saw the Red Wings defense collapse on him whenever he carried it into the zone. As the game wore on, Kane says he had to start looking for the open man more. Perhaps he'll have to start looking a little earlier. Too many neutral zone turnovers, especially in the second period, doomed the Blackhawks, who've been learning on the job all spring. How quickly they can adapt will dictate their level of success.

3. Shifting gears to tonight's Eastern Conference Final. If the Hurricanes don't show, don't be too quick to write them off. They haven't been quite an effective Game 1 team all postseason, and yet they've wrestled series wins away from what seems like the more talented team (New Jersey and Boston).

"It's something we've talked about," Eric Staal says of his team's glacial starts.

Maybe underestimation is what works in their favor most.

4. Watch for a Staal Brothers matchup that looks like it might be on with Pittsburgh's checking-line center Jordan up against his older sibling. They're sick of talking about it, I'm sure -- you can only talk so many times about how your parents must feel -- but watching them play each other could prove interesting. They're training partners in the summer, are often mistaken for each other, and they are highly competitive. If anybody could get the advantage on this one, it could be the Penguins. There probably aren't many who know Eric's game as well as Jordan, and if he has a way to quiet Carolina's leading goal-scorer, it may prove to be effective. The Hurricanes are 1-6 when Staal doesn't find the back of the net, and they haven't lost when he does.

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