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Lidstrom starts 20th season on torrid scoring pace

Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 6:17 PM / NHL Insider

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

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Lidstrom starts 20th season on torrid scoring pace
The future Hall of Fame defenseman for the Red Wings is currently on a 36-goal pace, and while it's highly unlikely he keeps that up, it's another reason to marvel over his ability.
DETROIT -- Nicklas Lidstrom is way too experienced to let himself believe the goal-scoring pace he's currently on will last for most, if not all, of the regular season.

It just doesn't happen that way for defensemen, regardless of their skill level -- and Lidstrom is arguably the most skilled to ever patrol the blue line. After potting 4 goals in as many games, Lidstrom now has 6 goals in 13 games and is Detroit's second-leading goal scorer -- on pace to score a whopping 36 goals.

In his 20th season in the NHL, Nicklas Lidstrom's offensive production is as strong as ever. (Photo: Dave reginek/NHLI)
Even the usually-stoic Red Wings captain had to laugh at that figure when told about it after Thursday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.

"I know it's not going to happen like that," he told NHL.com, while chuckling. "I'm not going to score every other game, but … "

It doesn't mean he won't try.

"Guys in here keep telling me to keep shooting the puck and stay hot by shooting it," said Lidstrom, who also has 5 assists and a plus-3 rating. "When the puck's going in for you, you're trying to shoot it a little bit more and trying to get pucks at the net and looking for opportunities to get that lane and get the puck through."

So far, so good.

Lidstrom is currently wreaking havoc on opponents by using his masterful anticipation of where the puck will go, plus a deadly-accurate shot and meticulous calculating to stay in position defensively.

It's something he does night in and night out, but also something that most still marvel about.

A reporter recently asked Red Wings coach Mike Babcock whether Lidstrom's hot stretch was maybe a "little fluky" considering the odds are it will slow down, and the look on the coach's face said it all.

It looked like somebody had just asked him if Michelangelo might've gotten a little lucky with that whole Sistine Chapel thing.

"Nothing about his game's fluky, so let's not go with that word," Babcock said. "The reality is he's just a good player and takes what's given. Obviously, he's had some opportunity and he's taken advantage of it."

Babcock was just getting warmed up.

"He's a great player and adjusts his feet very well before he shoots the puck," he said. "That's why he can shoot the puck the way he does … and he's got a brilliant mind. He's smarter than everyone else, but all the great players are. Their brain works."

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Even still, Babcock thinks Lidstrom's brain works at an even higher clip than most of the greats. That's why he was so quick to shoot down the term "fluky," because it simply doesn't fit Lidstrom's game in any way.
 
"Streak scorers often score because … when they get on a roll, they're feeling it," Babcock said. "Nick's not like that. He's not streaky. He's not, what'd you call him? Fluky? OK, there's nothing about him that's fluky, because he's smart. He knows where to go. He knows where the puck's going. That's why he's been great for so long. He's smarter than the rest of us."

Turns out, thanks to several long breaks in between games to start the season, the 41-year old Lidstrom might also be well-rested. Maybe he has brilliant legs right now to pair with that brilliant mind.

He's got to be fresher than he might be, say, following this weekend's back-to-back sequence against two of the hottest teams in the League -- home games with the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers. After that, the Wings will hit the road for five of their remaining eight November games. All that hockey and travel could take a toll on Lidstrom physically, if not mentally, and the odds are it will result in his goal-scoring hot spell cooling off.

That's where all of Lidstrom's NHL experience comes into play, as he's seen these types of torrid stretches come and go quite a few times.

"I know that when you're hot, you could easily get cold, as well … especially as a defenseman," Lidstrom told NHL.com. "It could easily turn the other way around just as quick. So, you enjoy it now, but you also know that you're going to have your ups and downs throughout the long year. I haven't really set up any personal goals of how many I want to score."

Why should he? Why put a cap on it?

You never know, maybe this time he'll defy even what his own mind is telling him and actually score more than 30 goals in a season -- or merely break his career goal-scoring high of 20 set in the 1999-2000 season.

Technically speaking, both of those possibilities are still out there. It's fun to think about, at least -- but probably not as fun as actually scoring the goals. That, Lidstrom said, never gets old, not even for a guy in his 20th NHL season.

"We all still enjoy it, whether you're a forward or a (defenseman) or you're 40 or only 6 or 7 … you still enjoy scoring goals," Lidstrom said, smiling. "It's still a lot of fun."
Quote of the Day

There was a lot of talk off the ice. From a player's standpoint, that's not the talk in the room. GMs make decisions, coaches make decisions, but as a team you have to come together and be ready to go, and we are.

— San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels on his team's approach entering training camp