Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There was a time when coming back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series seemed impossible, but in the last two NHL playoffs that goal has seemed downright attainable.
Since the start of the 2010 postseason, three teams have come back from being down 3-0 to force a decisive Game 7. That accounts for nearly half of the eight times in NHL history that a club has been able to push a series to a limit after falling behind three-games-to-none.
Of course, the Philadelphia Flyers actually won a series after being in that situation against Boston last spring and Chicago succumbed in Game 7 against Vancouver earlier in this postseason. Now, the Detroit Red Wings have a chance to join the 2010 Flyers and two other NHL clubs (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders) as the only teams to ever win a series after trailing 3-0.
Detroit's trump card for Thursday's Game 7 in San Jose is quite possibly the best all-around hockey player in the world, Pavel Datsyuk.
The 32-year-old Datsyuk is a rare talent who combines brilliant stickhandling and playmaking ability with the capacity to dominate a game on the defensive end as well.
Datsyuk has been the best player for Detroit throughout the playoffs and he has certainly stood out in this memorable series against the Sharks. The Russian forward has dominated San Jose so far, posting a point in all six games of the series and recording one goal and eight assists along the way.
The 32-year-old Datsyuk is a rare talent who combines brilliant stickhandling and playmaking ability with the capacity to dominate a game on the defensive end as well. He's won three Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward and has somehow done that while playing the game with the "gentlemanly conduct" that has also helped him claim four Lady Byngs for sportsmanship.
But, it's Datsyuk's hockey I.Q. that makes him one of the best players in the world and that's what will come in handy in Game 7 against the Sharks. While San Jose forward Patrick Marleau is fighting off accusations that he's playing "gutless" hockey, Datsyuk is doing all the right things to help his club win.
"It's going to be a hard game and a tough game. But for sure, it's more confidence for us with it 3-3 now," Datsyuk said of Thursday's test in San Jose.
Of course, Detroit will have other weapons at its disposal on Thursday. Fellow forward Henrik Zetterberg is having a strong series after sitting out the first round with a knee injury and future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is proving he's still dangerous at 41 years of age.
But, while Detroit is still captain Lidstrom's team, Datsyuk has overtaken the six-time Norris Trophy winner as the club's best player. It's Datsyuk, not Lidstrom, who is making believers out of hockey fans in Detroit and elsewhere that the Red Wings have what it takes to pull off the ultimate comeback.
However, as we saw in the Chicago-Vancouver Game 7, it will take more than one player to win Thursday's game at the Shark Tank. The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews willed his club to a road Game 7 against the Canucks and even forced the decisive contest to overtime with an amazing individual effort on a game-tying goal. But, in the end it was Alexandre Burrows connecting on the OT winner to send the Canucks to Round 2.
Datsyuk gives the Red Wings an edge in Game 7 because he's the skater who has been most able to dictate play in this series.
When Thursday comes, the Sharks are going to need someone, whether it's Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley or Joe Pavelski, to take control of the game or Datsyuk and the Red Wings will take their place in history instead.