He’s certainly familiar with skating in the postseason and he’s definitely had his fair share of Stanley Cup success, but for future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom, all that matters is the next drop of the puck.
His standing as one of hockey’s greatest defenceman is already assured, a class-act veteran who has four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best blueliner and an 11-time All-Star selection.
So what, if anything, could the active leader in NHL games played, the man who has captained the Detroit Red Wings since 2006, want to add to his trophy case?
“It never changes in that you want to win it all,” said the 41-year-old native of Vasteras, Sweden, who holds the distinction of being the first European-born and trained NHL captain to win the Stanley Cup, as well as the first European player named playoff MVP. “It's a great feeling, one you never forget.”
The 53rd overall selection of the Red Wings, who became the 14th player in the history of the NHL to play 1,500 games on October 22, 2011, entered this year’s postseason having appeared in 258 playoff games.
Lidstrom’s never missed the playoffs in his 19 years in the NHL.
While the faces have changed over the years, Lidstrom and his current Detroit teammates, who teamed together to deliver the franchise its 12th consecutive 100-point campaign, are eager to deliver the city championship No. 12.
“You kind of start it from scratch again,” said Lidstrom, of the year following a Cup victory. “You want to get up that mountain again and you start with the first round. You can't start looking too far ahead about what you can face again. You have to focus on that first round, just look at that. That's how we've been breaking it down in previous seasons.”
Taking on a tough foe in Nashville, their Central Division rivals who have the fourth seed in the Western Conference, is reminder enough to not take a long-term view of the playoffs.
The Predators, after taking both games in Detroit, lead the series 3-1 and have the Red Wings on the ropes.
“We don't mind being the underdogs,” offered Lidstrom, who has 13 shots after four games in the series. “Nashville had a real strong regular season, finished ahead of us in points. It’s a tough challenge to face Nashville in the first round.”
An opportunity Detroit’s decorated leader embraces.
“I think our team defence needs to be better,” said the man who became the 17th player to join the elite Triple Gold Club, an honour that recognizes players and coaches who have won an Olympic Games gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup. “We have to play better without the puck, especially against the quick forwards that Nashville has got. And we have to take care of our own net first.
“We kept our core group of guys together for a long period of time. I think that's been one of the keys to our success in the last 16 years, not too many turnovers with the players. I think that's one of the reasons we've had the consistency of making the playoffs, finishing as high as we can.”
While consistent play and a few lucky breaks can go a long way in determining the longevity of a team’s playoff run, Lidstrom, who has 183 career playoff points, acknowledges the health factor as a major key to Cup success.
“I think it's hard to put a percentage on it, but I would rank it right up there with being the most important thing to get deep into the playoffs,” offered Lidstrom. “You want to have depth throughout the lineup. You're looking for different players to step up at different times, have the role players win games for you sometimes. I think health is the most important thing to go all the way.”
It also doesn’t hurt your fortunes when you have one of the sport’s greatest defenceman leading the charge, a competitor who remains passionate about winning.
All quotes for this article were obtained first-hand.
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