Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lidstrom at 40: Still Pretty Damn Good

They say Nick Lidstrom isn't the defenseman that he once was. He's not as sharp; maybe has lost a step.

That's OK. Lidstrom can lose three or four steps, as far as I'm concerned. His stick is still in its mid-20s.

It's laughable, anyway, to accuse Lidstrom, the Red Wings' Hall of Fame defenseman, of losing a step. That's like crabbing that the Leaning Tower of Pisa has dropped another centimeter.

Speed and "steps" were never part of Lidstrom's game. You don't have to be blazing of foot to launch howitzers from the blue line. Or to look at the game as a bunch of angles, as Lidstrom does.

The Red Wings are in the second round of the playoffs because players like Lidstrom raised their game to a level that couldn't be matched in Game Seven against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Red Wings turned the drama of a Game Seven into slapstick hockey. It was like tuning in expecting to see "Gone With the Wind" and getting the Little Rascals instead.

6-1, the Red Wings won. Lidstrom had a couple of goals, an assist, and he played all the angles correctly. Again.

The critics were out on him, especially after Game Six, when Nicky was on the ice for three of the Coyotes' goals---albeit two of them on the power play.

He was about to turn 40 at that point (he did yesterday), so it seemed fair to question whether his skills were slipping.

Lidstrom could slip and slip some more and I'd still take him over a majority of the defensemen in the league.

And as for Game Six's supposed struggles, I'll say this: I haven't seen Nick Lidstrom play two poor games in a row. But then again, I've only seen him play for 19 seasons.

Lidstrom is the team captain and they knock him for that, too.

He's not vocal enough. The team has no personality. We miss Steve Yzerman.

Contrary to popular, misguided belief, you don't have to yell and scream to be a good leader.

All I know is, when October rolls around, you fit Lidstrom with fresh batteries, turn him on, and 82 games later he's racked up another near-perfect season. Still. You don't think that inspires his teammates?

He didn't win the Norris Trophy last year, and won't win it this year, either. But he has six of those and he needs another to validate his legacy like a hole in the head.

Then there's that stick he has. The stick of a 25-year-old. It says here that Lidstrom has used his stick better than any defenseman that's ever laced up a skate. He can go an entire game without throwing a bodycheck but the desired result is the same: scoring chances are denied.

Lidstrom is the well-mannered defender. He practically says "sorry" and "excuse me" while he relieves you of the puck. He wouldn't lose his temper on the ice if you called his mother names. In a sport that's famous for a bump and a cross-eyed look turning into World War III, Lidstrom manages to defend his zone with nothing but his savvy, his stick, and a wink.

So it's the San Jose Sharks next for the Red Wings, who are trying to coax another long playoff run out of their old legs.

Two of those legs belong to Nick Lidstrom, who supposedly has lost a step or two from them.

Keep telling yourself that.

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