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NHL Detroit Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk: Duel With Jonathan Toews The Key In Series vs. Blackhawks

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Red Wings dropped Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night, with the game getting away from them in the third period. While it’s a loss, it’s not devastating by any stretch, at least at this point.

What the game did show was the importance of the matchup between Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Toews. Two of the game’s best two-way centers will be seeing plenty of each other throughout this series, as we saw in Wednesday’s Game 1.

Both Selke Trophy finalists, one would expect that Datsyuk and Toews would spend a good amount of this series cancelling each other out. Once one gains the advantage, that’s when we see one team start to take over. Which was the case on Wednesday.

Toews got on the stat sheet with an assist and won 52 percent of his draws. A typical night for him. On the other side, not only was Datsyuk a minus-1 for the night, he was held without a shot. After the first period, the Blackhawks started to control the game, the Toews line in particular. Coincidence?

That doesn’t necessarily mean that every game will go this way. But there aren’t a whole lot of categories in which Datsyuk had an edge over Toews this season. Datsyuk’s 56 takeaways led the league, but he was tied with Toews in that category.

Datsyuk finished the regular season with 49 points and a 55 percent success rate in the faceoff circle. Toews finished a point shy of Datsyuk, but topped him with a 59 percent winning percentage. The matchup is obviously a close one, judging by the numbers.

If the Red Wings are going to steal this series from the top-seeded Blackhawks, this is going to be the key matchup. Datsyuk is going to have to outplay Toews. We saw what happened when the reverse was true. The Hawks took control and made Detroit pay, with Jimmy Howard keeping them in it longer than they should have been.

This is the matchup to watch as this series wears on. A battle between two Selke Trophy finalists is always a blast to watch. But can the Red Wings’ finalist outduel the Hawks’? The answer could end up being the deciding factor in this series.