Are Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg getting the job done as a pair on the top line or does there need to be a change? In a team that has struggled to find offense this season, the question is more than reasonable to ask. As these two are both fan favorites, this could be a debate between fans throughout the next few weeks so why not start it right here?
This isn't an overreaction from the 6-0 loss at the hands of the Islanders that spawned this post, but just rather some musings and thoughts through my own head as to why the two are together on the top line. I understand you want to put your best foot forward but there's also needs to be a distribution of wealth so to speak. If Holmstrom or Franzen were in the line-up, I would have no problem with the Eurotwins being on the same line. But they're not. With that said, I think Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk need to be split up and here's why.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg are known to have great chemistry together but the times this year in which they've been paired on the same line, they've struggled to find that chemistry. For example, excluding the power play, Zetterberg has only scored one of his 10 goals on which Datsyuk assisted; and it was a secondary assist too. Datsyuk has only scored one of his 11 goals with a Zetterberg assist at even strength. Are these numbers a little skewed? By all means, yes. The two haven't been paired together all season long but in my mind it does still show that their chemistry just isn't working this year.
The solution? After the jump of course.
Call it Todd Bertuzzi if you want but in my mind its the selflessness to a fault that has somewhat doomed this pairing. Zetterberg has 10 goals and 22 helpers while Datsyuk has 11 and 23--nearly identical numbers and further indication that they are pass first. I've noticed several times where one player will defer to the other who will defer to the other until the scoring chance is lost. So what gives? With Marian Hossa in the line-up last year, Zetterberg and Datsyuk had the ability to pass to a guy that was trigger happy and it had huge success. But with that true sniper gone who will take the shots?
Datsyuk and Zetterberg of course. Splitting them up will make them the premium shooter on their respective lines. It's undeniable the amount of skill they have shooting the puck but when they try too often to make the perfect pass to set up a shot, the shots just don't end up happening. The teams around the league are onto the Wings style of play and the passing plays just aren't there that often this year.
Valtteri Filppula has proven that he's a very capable passer and shooter. Even more so, he's a great face-off guy and a true second line center. If you put Zetterberg on his line, there could be instant meshing. Zetterberg is more than okay with playing the wing position (I mean, look where he is right now) and Filppula actually has a better face-off percentage than Hank. On the Filppula line, Zetterberg would be the sniper of the line and there'd be no confusion over who is the finisher. Fil is a great set-up man, close to being as good as Datsyuk, and can set up Zetterberg for quality chances and as the top shooter on the line, he'd have more inclination to fire than dish.
Putting Zetterberg with Filppula would make the need for a player to be pushed to the top line. Why not Dan Cleary? He's as hot of a scorer as anyone right now and could bring some good balance to the top line until Holmstrom returns. Miller could stay on the second line and the bottom two lines would be the same too.