Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he can’t remember seeing a player maintain as high a level of play over as many years as Nicklas Lidstrom has done.
Lidstrom, along with Nashville’s Shea Weber and Boston’s Zdeno Chara, were announced as the three finalists for the Norris Trophy – which goes to the NHL’s top defenseman – on Monday. The winner will be announced on June 22, at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.
Lidstrom, who will turn 41 on Thursday and is in his 19th season, has won six Norris Trophies – only Bobby Orr (eight) and Doug Harvey (seven) have won more – and this is the 11th time (he finished second three times and third once) in the last 13 seasons that he has been a Norris finalist.
“There’s no player that has been as good as long, in my opinion, that I’ve seen,” Babcock said about the Red Wings’ captain.
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard talked about how helpless opposing forwards feel when Lidstrom is defending them on a rush.
“You see a guy coming down and No. 5 in front of him, it’s funny,” Howard said. “You can almost see the frustration on their faces.”
Lidstrom was the league’s second-highest scoring defensemen with 16 goals and 46 points for 62 points but was minus-1. He is plus-430 for his career and it is the first season that he has finished as a minus player.
“That’s something I wasn’t very happy about,” Lidstrom said. “Something I tried to correct and get over the hump at the end of the year.”
But there wasn’t much Lidstrom could do about some of the defensive mistakes made by his teammates , particularly in the second half of the season.
“He just does everything really, really good … He’s always in good position and makes heady, smart plays,” Darren Helm said.
Lidstrom is also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s most gentlemanly player.
Waiting to see who they will play
The Red Wings could face either San Jose, Nashville or Chicago in the second round.
Of course, no Detroit team said that they would prefer to play or not to play a particular team but Henrik Zetterberg thinks the distance the Wings are forced to travel would have a bearing on their Stanley Cup chances.
“If you’re going to go all the way, you’re going to have to have at least one short trip,” he said.
The rest is a double-edged sword for Detroit, which has now had five days off and the second round would start no earlier than Thursday. The Red Wings are resting and healing while all of their potential opponents are beating up on each other. But will the Wings be able to quickly recapture the level of play and intensity of their four-game sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes?
“If the other team has got to play more, it will be easier for us,” Lidstrom said. “But on the other hand, they’ll be ready if they played two nights before.”
Kris Draper who, like Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, has helped Detroit win four Stanley Cups, doesn’t think the Red Wings will have any problem shaking off the rust.
“It’s nice to be able to sit back and watch,” Draper said. “It seems like every night, you’re cheering for another team just to keep the series going.”
Johan Franzen, who missed Game 4 of the Phoenix series with a sore ankle, didn’t practice with the team. He skated briefly by himself in a warm-up suit after practice.
“He didn’t practice with the team, that’s all I’ve got for you,” Babcock said.
Both he and Zetterberg, who missed the first round with a sprained left knee, are expected to be ready or the second round. Zetterberg practiced with the team and said the knee “is getting better.”