The Battle Within The Battle: Pavel Datsyuk vs Patrice Bergeron

The start of the Red Wings-Bruins first round series is still 3 agonizing days away, so we fans are doing what we do best: arguing.

In the past, Wing fans have been forced to deal with the obtuse in Duck fans, the newly-annointed-and-therefore-the-noisiest-and-dumbest Blackhawk fans, and the mouth-breathing troglodytes called Blues fans, most of whom consider the description I just gave them as a compliment.

However, the Red Wings are in the East now, and that means that we're interacting with a whole new set of fanbases, folks we're not sure of yet, and who haven't been forced to bear witness to the wonder that is Wing Fan Playoff Arrogance.

This being our first series with the Bruins, a team that the Wings have never really had a rivalry against, it's natural to assume that most Bruins fans didn't care too much about the Wings from a hatred perspective. That feeling was fairly mutual, as there has never been any sort of incident that required one side to think of the other as more than just a new division opponent.

The playoffs should change all that, and the Bruins are fresh off earning the President's Trophy, only putting them 14 behind the Wings in that category. Of course, all of the Wings' Prez' Trophies were earned while playing in the far superior Western Conference, but you can't really blame the Bruins because they play the schedule they were given.

In our series of posts yesterday, we sought to inform and educate folks about what to expect from the Bruins, as well as identify some key players on the Wings' side that will need to be on their game if the Wings hope to pull off a fairly large upset. Things were going quite nicely before one Bruins fan decided to make his way over and offer up his opinion:

Well, from SCoC, I have a little "trash talk" since our game is so bad:

Patrice Bergeron.

That’s it. That’s all we need to say. It’s over, kids. Bergy takes the ice, you lose.

Have fun winning Game 3. It will be nice to see the false hope building up in your hearts, only to be crushed even harder than David Ortiz’ ALCS slam :)

Enjoy the week!

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about

First, let me be clear here: this is not an indictment of Jim or his opinions. I believe that Patrice Bergeron is one of the top players in the game, and his presence is troubling because of his offensive abilities and the fact he's one of the best defensive forwards in hockey. He was also a key contributor to the Canadian Olympic team winning gold, a fact that still makes me smile 2 months later.

The problem for Jim is that after making the above comment, he decided to say this when it was brought to his attention that we consider Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to both be superior players to Bergeron:

Not even close. Not even an iota of truth

In their prime? Maybe.

But Bergy could score so many more than 30 goals if he wasn’t playing a defensive game 100% of the time- something neither Datsyuk or Zetterberg can claim.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about

If you would like to read the rest of that conversation, I would advise you to check it out here, as the merits of his argument were debated in a civilized and constructive manner befitting us classy folks here at WIIM.

With all that happening, it did make me wonder about how the two stacked up against each other, and whether one of them gave their team an advantage that the other did not.

First, it should be made very clear that in the season series between these two clubs, Pavel Datsyuk did not play in 2 of them. That would be the 6-1 thrashing the Wings laid on the Bruins in November as well as the 3-2 victory played a couple of weeks ago. Patrice Bergeron played in all 4 of the games, and since Datsyuk is easily the best player on the Red Wings at this moment (until Zetterberg comes back, and then we have another debate on our hands), it's very obvious that a Wings team that was able to beat the Bruins twice without Datsyuk would be even better with him in the lineup. Advantage Pavel.

Next, I decided to look at how each player has fared against the other team. For example, did you know that in the 4 games this season against the Red Wings, Bergeron had exactly 1 assist? To put that in perspective, that's 1 less assist than Brian Lashoff had against the Bruins this year. Not very good if you ask me. Datsyuk, on the other hand, had 2 assists in the 2 games he played against the Bruins this year. I'm no algebra teacher, and fancy stats allude me on good days, but I think 2 > 1. Advantage Datsyuk.

"But what about before this year, smart guy?" I hear you say, and I thought the same thing. Going back to the 2010-11 season (the year the Bruins won the Cup), Bergeron has had 1 goal and 1 assist against the Wings in 7 games. In the same time span, Datsyuk has 2 goals and 4 assists in 5 games, and that doesn't include a SO goal because those are exciting but pointless. Advantage Datsyuk again.

Bergeron is likely going to win the Selke Trophy as the NHL's best defensive forward this year, and he's in the mix for the Hart as well. Very impressive. Granted, Datsyuk missed 37 games due to a nagging knee injury and concussion, but he was able to put up .82 pts/game vs Bergeron's .78. So offensively it looks as if, even with the injuries and age difference and the fact he still has to play with Justin Freaking Abdelkader on his wing at times, Datsyuk contributes more offensively. Advantage Datsyuk.

But these two players aren't just offensive dynamos. They're also ridiculously talented defensively, as evidenced by the 3 Selkes and numerous nominations. Checking out the "fancy stats" (what a ludicrous term), we see that Bergeron slightly out-performed Datsyuk in FF% 5vs5 while playing against comparable competition. Bergeron plays more on the PK than Datsyuk, and given his numbers this season, I'll reluctantly give the edge to Bergeron. This year. Advantage Bergeron.

So by my count, that's 4 for Datsyuk and 1 for Bergeron. I think it's become quite obvious that Pavel Datsyuk is the real game-changer in this series, and if the math is correct (and math is always correct, right nerds?) then it's clear that not only will the Wings win this series, but they'll do so in 5 games. The numbers don't lie.

Oh, and if you don't like math and prefer to rely on the "eye test", here are two videos that will show your eyes why Pavel Datsyuk is the best player in this series. In the second one, pay close attention at the 1:00 minute mark to see who lost the puck, and then again at the 1:29 mark to see a great defensive play being made on an okay forward.