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Lidstrom wants to add to winning tradition

Thursday, 04.10.2008 / 1:38 PM ET / Features
By John Kreiser  - Columnist
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Lidstrom wants to add to winning tradition
Nicklas Lidstrom led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 70 points during the regular season.
Nicklas Lidstrom highlights
The unfortunate thing for the rest of the NHL is that hockey is nowhere near as easy as Nicklas Lidstrom makes it look.

He’s been making it look that way for 16 seasons, since arriving in North America in 1991 as a 21-year-old rookie with a Detroit team on the rise. Three championships and a trophy case full of awards later, he’s the 37-year-old captain of the NHL’s best team and now looking for a fourth Stanley Cup ring after leading NHL defensemen in points (70) and finishing second in the league to teammate Pavel Datsyuk in plus-minus (plus-40).

“He makes it look so easy out there, it (ticks) me off,” Nashville center Jason Arnott, who has to face Lidstrom eight times a season when the Central Division rivals meet, said with a smile. “He looks like he could play another 50 years, the way he glides around out there.”

Lidstrom isn’t the NHL’s fastest skater, biggest hitter or hardest shooter. What makes him unique is a combination of physical skills and intelligence that enables him to see the ice in ways most other players don’t.

“I think my style of play -- my positional play -- is very important to me,” Lidstrom said. “I think that’s why I’ve been in the League so long. I play my position really well. I’m good at reading plays and anticipating plays on the ice. I use my stick a lot more than maybe other players, where they use their bodies more. I’m not a physical player, but I try to play my position right.”

It’s hard to argue with the results.

Red Wings-Predators series preview
Game 1:  April 10 @ Detroit
Game 2:  April 12 @ Detroit
2 p.m. EDT, NBC, TSN
Game 3:  April 14 @ Nashville
 7:30 p.m. EDT, VERSUS, TSN
Game 4:  April 16 @ Nashville
*Game 5:  April 18 @ Detroit
7:30 p.m. EDT, VERSUS, CBC
*Game 6:  April 20 @ Nashville
3 p.m. EDT, NBC, CBC, RDS
*Game 7:  April 22 @ Detroit
7:30 p.m. EDT, TBD
* if necessary
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In addition to his three Stanley Cup rings, Lidstrom has five Norris Trophies (with a sixth likely to come in June), a Conn Smythe Trophy, seven First-Team All-Star berths and 10 trips to the NHL All-Star Game, including this season’s contest in Atlanta.

“Nick always takes care of the other guys’ best player -- and he does a great job -- while racking up the points,” Detroit goalie and fellow All-Star Chris Osgood said.

He’s done such a superb job racking up points this season that he easily finished first in scoring among defensemen despite missing six games with a sprained right knee. In his return, March 9, he looked like he’d never been away, setting up two goals in the Wings’ 4-3 win against Nashville.

Unlike most players in this era of widespread player movement, Lidstrom has spent his entire career with the Red Wings, with whom he recently signed a two-year deal that will take him to age 40. Through the years, he’s had the opportunity to go elsewhere – for more money than he was making in Detroit – but opted to stay put.

Familiarity with the only organization he’d ever known might have been part of the reason he stayed, but it wasn’t the main factor.

“Probably the winning tradition,” he says when asked what makes Detroit special. “We’ve won three Stanley Cups and we’ve had solid contenders for a lot of years. Just having the chance to win it every year — I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed for so long. That’s one of the reasons I signed a two-year deal as well -- because I enjoy it so much and we have such a competitive team.”

On a team loaded with stars like Henrik Zetterberg and hockey legends like Dominik Hasek and Chris Chelios, Lidstrom is the gear that turns the Winged Wheel.

“He’s our centerpiece,” Osgood said.

Whatever Lidstrom might have lost physically during the years has more than been made up for by the gains he’s derived from 16 NHL seasons.

“I think I was looked upon as being a good, talented young offensive player -- good on the power play, someone who could join the rush. When I first came into the League, I was an offensive-minded player,” he said. “I think that over the years, I’ve established myself as a good defensive player, too. I think my all-around game is a lot better, and I’ve got a lot more experience than when I came into the League. All that experience really helps.”

Perhaps most amazing is Lidstrom’s endurance. Though he’s averaged upward of 25 minutes a night on the ice while playing 1,252 games in his career (including 26:43 in 76 games this season), Lidstrom has missed just 28 games in his 16 NHL regular seasons, including the six this season. Part of the reason, according to Arnott, is that while Lidstrom isn’t a big banger himself, getting a clean shot at Lidstrom is almost impossible.

“He’s the hardest guy to hit. He’s so smooth,” Arnott said. “You think ‘I have him in my sights and I’m going to try to hit him.’ Then he takes one step and you’re running into the boards.”

Lidstrom has made his partners look good over the years — Brian Rafalski is the latest player to benefit from playing with the future Hall of Famer. But Lidstrom feels he’s benefited from the partnerships as well.

I’ve had some great partners over the years – Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Brad McCrimmon. It’s helped my game, too, playing with good partners over the years. - Nicklas Lidstrom
“They were good before they played with me,” he said. “Good players like Schneids (Mathieu Schneider) and Rafalski help my game, too. I’ve had some great partners over the years – Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Brad McCrimmon. It’s helped my game, too, playing with good partners over the years.”

Lidstrom is one of a handful of players with Stanley Cup rings and an Olympic gold medal -- he was captain of the Swedish team that won in 2006. While both are special, Lidstrom feels there’s nothing like the season-long quest to win a Cup.

“It’s different when you’re battling with the same team for a long time,” he said. “I enjoy playing for my country, but when you play for the Wings, you play six months before the playoffs start -- and hopefully a couple of months after that.”

Author: John Kreiser | Columnist




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80