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Pavel Datsyuk’s Magical Mystery Tour


March 3, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center

Pavel Datsyuk

(13) during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Joe Louis Arena. Chicago won 2-1 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone has been concerned about Pavel Datsyuk, ever since Justin Abdelkader was made his winger weeks ago. He went way too many games without scoring a goal. It was as if we could see his frustration.

With Abel to Yzerman over at Kukla’s Corner reporting that a very reliable source says Datsyuk is headed back to Russia after his contract is up next year, everyone is freaking out.

And rightly so.

A few weeks ago, I remember watching Datsyuk during the second period – really watching him and all his intricacies – and thinking to myself, “We’ll be okay until Datsyuk leaves.” Because for every piece that’s missing on this team, for every piece that needs to be fixed, the Russian is the one part that has remained consistent.

Unfortunately, I did not realize that he’s already 34 years old with one year left on his contract. He won’t be a Chris Chelios, playing well into his forties, and he certainly won’t be a Dominik Hasek, retiring time and time again only to come back time and time again.

His decision, whenever it may come, probably is not influenced by the frustration fans felt at seeing him weighed down by Abdelkader and Dan Cleary as his wingers. But that frustration does not help the situation, either.

After the last three games, Datsyuk seems to be hitting his stride once again. It’s a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief. Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks showed Abdelkader getting his first career hat trick with a few moves that were fairly Datsyukian. Fans have been on Abdelkader’s case for most of this season, so to see him finally be successful and picking up moves from Datsyuk, it was an unexpected surprise.

Datsyuk scored on the power play to take the Wings up 2-1. It was his 250th career goal. He also got his 500th helper on one of Abdelkader’s goals to give him 750 points. He’s up there in the all-time Red Wings ranks.

In Monday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes, who are fighting for their life in the Western Conference playoff race, Datsyuk set up Johan Franzen on the power play to tie the game, and then scored six minutes into the third on a power play to give the Wings the lead. It’s another game-winning goal for the Magic Man.

Datsyuk’s journey this year has definitely been a magical mystery tour. He started strong – he was the most consistent player on our team alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner.

His journey took fans to that dark place. Those dozen games when he did not score. Those dozen games when he was loaded down by Abdelkader and Cleary.

Feb. 17, 2012;  Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Now, he seems to be coming out of that dark place. Now, we are beginning to see that Datsyuk we’ve come to trust in far too much. We see the Datsyuk whose goal celebrations of a huge grin on his face and hands in the air (see picture on the left) make us tear up a little, whether we admit it publicly or not.

What a long and strange trip it’s been. Could we expect anything else when it comes to Datsyuk? For every slump he falls into, he falls out of it with such grace and style, it’s as if he never hit the slump in the first place.

What terrifies us during that slump is that we wonder if we’ve seen the best of Datsyuk, much like many people are worried with Alex Ovechkin. That’s why every time he comes out of it, we are relieved. Because when that magic begins to disappear, we know the end is near for Datsyuk.

That is something we don’t want to think about, but something we know will come true: Pavel Datsyuk will leave this league. He will leave on a high note. He will retire as one of the best in the league. And it shouldn’t be any other way.

Let’s enjoy this trip while it lasts.