Last Look at Lidstrom in DC?Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Assuming Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom plays in Friday night’s home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets – and there’s no reason to assume he won’t – the venerable backliner is slated to play in the 1500th game of his NHL career here on Saturday at Verizon Center. Only four NHL defensemen have gone past the 1500-game milestone before Lidstrom: Chris Chelios (1651), Scott Stevens (1635), Larry Murphy (1615) and Ray Bourque (1612). “That’s pretty good,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Lidstrom’s pending achievement. “It’s really good. That’s a tremendous accomplishment, I think. Fifteen hundred-plus games in the National Hockey League is such a tremendous accomplishment. And to play it at the level he plays at is amazing. He’s still probably in the history of the National Hockey League in the top five defensemen that have ever laced on skates. It’s an honor just to watch him play.” This trip to the District might well be the last for Lidstrom. The 41-year-old Swedish rearguard has hinted at retirement for the last few seasons. Detroit’s third-round choice (53rd overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Lidstrom made his NHL debut in 1991-92. He has played in at least 80 games in 14 of his previous 19 NHL seasons, and has won seven Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Lidstrom has played for four Stanley Cup winners in Detroit. He has played in 11 all-star games. He has been a first team post-season all-star 10 times and a second-teamer twice. What’s most remarkable about Lidstrom is the fact that – at the advanced age of 41 – he is still able to assume a large workload in terms of ice time, is still able to serve on his team’s top pairing, works well in a shutdown role but is still able to routinely produce offensive numbers that rank among the top level of the league’s rearguards, year in and year out. It is possible – maybe even likely – that Lidstrom hangs up his skates for good at season’s end. It’s also likely that he could keep playing at his current level for a few more seasons if he wanted to do so. “I just remember him being in phenomenal shape when I was a younger player,” says Caps winger Mike Knuble, who was a teammate of Lidstrom’s in Detroit in the mid-1990s. “He’s one of those guys who takes care of himself. He is in great shape all the time. He just plays the game easy, makes it look easy, never really has to hustle, great positioning all the time, makes the game easy. He plays a real easy style. His positioning is so great he never has to skate hard. He’s always beating guys back for pucks, never getting hit hard. He’s a really tough guy to get a hit on; nobody can ever get a piece of him. He’s probably one of the smartest players ever to play our game at his position. When you’re smart and you make it look easy, you can play forever it seems.” Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik is second behind Lidstrom among all NHL players in terms of games played by a defenseman. “When you get older it’s about the position and how you read the play, “ says Hamrlik, “and he’s one of the best defensemen who can do it. He knows where the puck’s going and he sees the ice very well. It’s always nice to see him when I watch the game on TV or playing against him. I’ve tried over the years to learn something from him. He’s still one of the best; last year he proved it. He had such a good year.” Take a good look at Lidstrom’s work on the ice tomorrow when the Wings visit Verizon Center. There is a strong possibility that you won’t get another chance to do so.
Having won six straight games to start the 2011-12 regular season, the Capitals face another strong test tonight when the Detroit Red Wings visit Verizon Center. The game pits the last two undefeated teams in the NHL. The Wings hit town on the heels of a 5-2 home ice win over the Columbus Blue