Always expect the unexpected.
Even if you live by that motto, there was still no way of predicting a Corey Perry-Pavel Datsyuk fight in the third period Friday night with Detroit holding a 4-0 lead.
“I’m not a really big guy to talk about what happened,” Datsyuk said. “It happened, it happened. It’s part of hockey, part of show…part of what we like.”
If you haven’t seen it by now, please, take the time to check out the battle of fists between the two. The 6-foot-3 Perry certainly had a reach advantage on the 5-foot-11 Datsyuk, but the three-time Selke Trophy winner held his own and ended up on top when the two fell to the ice. Whether you thought he won or not, it was great to watch.
But it wasn’t even the first fight Datsyuk has been involved with – in the 2009 playoffs against Anaheim, Datsyuk found himself wrapped up with Scott Niedermayer. After Friday’s fight, Datsyuk told the Detroit media his tilt with Perry was the better one and when I asked the 32-year-old Russian about it Monday he said that was the case because no one got in the way when he met Perry.
“Somebody from (Niedermayer’s) team hold me from behind, so it’s not like how it’s supposed to be,” Datsyuk said of his faceoff with the former Ducks defenseman.
While Todd Marchant intervened in that tussle, Datsyuk surprised everybody with how well he handled himself 1-on-1 against the bigger Perry. But perhaps it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
How’s this for an odd couple: Two years ago Derek Boogaard joined Datsyuk in Russia during the hockey camp Datsyuk organizes for kids, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. There, the enforcer trained with mixed martial arts instructor Jeremy Clark, who was also training with Datsyuk and helping with the off-ice component of his camp. While Boogaard wasn’t able to make the trip this past summer, Datsyuk did take something away from their time together.
“I see how he works, but I know it’s not my job,” Datsyuk said. “I never would be a fighter or something. I’m happy he helped me and to know him. I see how he trains, how he does it, so he helped me a little bit.”
Not that Datsyuk has fine-tuned his fighting tactics in the ring. It’s not exactly a part of his game he needs to work on because it’s not a position he’s in very often. In fact, he said he handled himself so well against Perry because of what he picked up watching other fights around the league.
“When you see the highlight on TV you see everybody grab each other and try to protect himself,” Datsyuk said. “So that’s what I tried to do, protect myself.”
Datsyuk has been taking a little good-natured ribbing from teammates the past couple of days because of his tilt and also around media circles. How unexpected was this? Not only has Datsyuk won the past three Selke Trophies, but he won four Lady Byng Trophies in a row and was a finalist for it last year.
The initial reaction of many to the fight - myself included - was that No. 13 had just lost his chance for another Byng, but when you consider he was racking up 18-22 penalty minutes each year he won the gentlemanly award, this year’s should still be within his grasp.
Even Datsyuk is still eyeing the award – and maybe a little something else.
“It’s only a five minute penalty; I know it would be a tough crowd for Lady Byng, but I know I am still looking forward to Lady Byng…” Datsyuk paused before saying with a chuckle, “or another Cup or something.”
After Edmonton’s Steve MacIntyre and Calgary’s Raitis Ivanans fought in their first game of the year - with Ivanans needing to be helped from the ice after seemingly being knocked unconscious - there was the usual stink being raised questioning the role of fighting in hockey. Of course, if Ivanans wasn’t hurt in the tilt we most likely wouldn’t have heard anything about it after the fact.
But the Datsyuk-Perry quarrel didn’t stir that kind of overreaction. It was actually met with dropped jaws and even a few light-hearted chuckles of disbelief (the fans at Joe Louis Arena loved it enough to chant Datsyuk’s name afterward). If Datsyuk was injured on the play we’d be hearing about how unnecessary it was, but since he came out unscathed it seems everyone enjoyed that bit of theatre.
And while Datsyuk won’t ever be considered a fighter, he said every scrap is different and sometimes one can break out in an emotional game, which is acceptable.
“Some of them fight, after a big hit or something,” he said. “But (fighting) is for when it’s a temper game; when it’s for something big. It helps fans. I know it’s good for fans. Depends what situation, depends what’s between guys.”
So with that episode out of the way, will it be the last time we’ll see Datsyuk fight this season?
“Hopefully,” he said. “But you never know – anything can happen.”
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His blog appears Tuesdays only on THN.com.
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