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Lidstrom's trick latest example of his amazing skill

Thursday, 12.16.2010 / 12:33 PM / NHL Insider

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Lidstrom's trick latest example of his amazing skill
Nicklas Lidstrom has done so much in his spectacular career, but managed another first Wednesday night, netting his first career NHL hat trick
Nicklas Lidstrom's Hall of Fame resume is pretty much set, and has been for quite a while.

Six Norris trophies, four Stanley Cups, nine times on the NHL First All-Star Team, appearances in 10 NHL All-Stars Games -- with No. 11 likely to come next month -- his status as the only European-born and -trained player to captain a team to a Stanley Cup … the list of superlatives goes on and on.

But just when you thought Lidstrom had accomplished everything a legend could, he managed to amaze once again.

Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues, in career game No. 1,442, Lidstrom managed a personal first -- an NHL hat trick.

His slap shot from just above the left circle opened the scoring 4:02 into the second period, his slapper from the point 2:46 into the third made it 4-1, and he closed the game with an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left in the third. The shot, a slapper from the left point, went through four Blues players with chances to block it.

"He's done everything else," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said following the game. "Might as well do that."

"I knew about it," Lidstrom said during an appearance on NHL Live! on Thursday. "I hadn't gotten one in the past. I knew had a lot of two-goal games where I had chances, the other team would pull the goalie … the same thing happened last night. I had 2 goals, we were up and they pulled the goalie. (Danny) Cleary had had an empty netter and someone lifted his stick before he had the chance to put it in, but he got it in the corner and I put it in."

At age 40, Lidstrom is the oldest player in League history to score his first hat trick, the oldest defenseman ever to have a hat trick, and the third-oldest player in League history to have a 3-goal game; only Gordie Howe and Johnny Bucyk were older when they had hat tricks.

Now in his 19th NHL season, Lidstrom looks -- and plays -- as good as ever. His 26 points in 30 games are third among all NHL defensemen, and his 7 goals tie him for third. His average ice time of 23:38 per game is down nearly two minutes per game from last season, but he still leads the Wings.

"We talk about this every single year. We think he's the best defenseman in the game and obviously he's an elite talent. But he's an elite person and he's a great leader. He sets the tone for this hockey club structurally, work-ethic wise, how he handles himself as a pro, how you practice and the way you play. He models. You've got to give the guy a lot of credit." -- Mike Babcock

He's played in all 30 games for the Red Wings this season, played in all 82 last season and has played in at least 76 games in every season except for the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign.

He's eighth all-time in games played by a defenseman. His 244 goals are 10th, and his 828 assists and 1,072 points are sixth. He's one of eight defensemen in League history with 1,000 points.

"We talk about this every single year," Babcock said recently. "We think he's the best defenseman in the game and obviously he's an elite talent. But he's an elite person and he's a great leader. He sets the tone for this hockey club structurally, work-ethic wise, how he handles himself as a pro, how you practice and the way you play. He models. You've got to give the guy a lot of credit."

"We call him the Perfect Human," teammate Niklas Kronwall told ESPN.com. "And there's a reason for it. Whatever he does, he seems to do perfectly, so I think that's a pretty good nickname."

Many believed Lidstrom was going to hang up his skates after last season. He had 1 goal and 17 points in his first 40 games, and finished with just 9 goals and 40 points, some of the lowest offensive totals of his career, and while he still was a plus-22, there was talk of him returning to Sweden and becoming a full-time hockey dad -- his 16-year-old son Kevin was going back home to attend a hockey academy.

"You miss him, for sure," Lidstrom said. "Your oldest boy has gone off to play hockey, but that's something he wanted to do. It's something he wants to pursue, so we're real supportive of that. I wanted to make sure he was in good hands and in a good situation over there. That's why I took everything into account before I made a decision."

Babcock, however, never really worried about losing his team captain and best defensemen.

"I knew our team was too good and our team was too good (for him) to retire," Babcock said. "Hopefully our team continues to be good. I think if our team continues to be good, then Nick will continue to play. As soon as our team is no good, then Nick's got no interest in that."

Lidstrom signed a one-year contract last summer, and said at his age, taking things one season at a time is the best way to go.

"Last year I wanted to wait until the season was over, talk to my family and wait to make a decision," he said on NHL Live!. "I'm enjoying myself now. I'll play this year out and we'll see what happens."

As good as he is for as long as he's played, Lidstrom still is looking to grow and evolve his game.

"That's something I tried to do at the start of the year," Lidstrom said on NHL Live!. "We have great net-front presence, with (Tomas) Holmstrom, (Johan) Franzen, Cleary. I've been trying to get more shots through, more than previous years. And you're not always shooting on net, sometimes you're shooting it wide, looking for rebounds or looking for tips. That's something I've been trying to emphasize."

The result is 67 shots, fifth-most on the team, and they've not only resulted in his 7 goals, but numerous offensive opportunities off tips, deflections and rebounds.

"You watch him shoot -- pucks get through. It's not a fluke," former teammate Chris Chelios told ESPN.com. "The systems today, guys get in shooting lanes. But Nick has his head up when he's shooting. Guys like me and others, we'd just bury our heads when we shot. He's got a knack of facing up, looking at the net, looking at players and shooting at the same time. It's a skill, it's an art, and he's got it down to a science."

Lidstrom, however, soft-sells his performance this season -- just like he's done almost everything else during his outstanding career. If the man has an ego, he hides it as seamlessly as he plays.

"I've always kept a low profile," Lidstrom said. "I've done that on purpose, too. It's just the kind of guy I am."

That understated excellence is the biggest hallmark of Lidstrom's game. 

"What makes Nick great is he's very good to great at everything. He doesn't have any wow factor," Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com. "You'll see a guy like (Mike) Green in Washington jumping into the high slot, zipping the puck into the top corner. That's not really Nick's game. He doesn't dangle. The wow factor is he does it every day, day after day after day, after game, after year. Big games, small games -- the wow factor is the constant that you just know. It's the body of work."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com
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