A milestone night like Saturday – Nicklas Lidstrom’s 1,500th regular-season NHL game – is a chance to appreciate the Red Wings defenseman’s greatness and begin to appreciate his place in history.
That’s not easy, but it sure is remarkable.
“It’s impressive what he done. Those numbers and Stanley Cups and the leadership with the one team, it’s really, really impressive,” said defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who’s as close to a contemporary to Lidstrom as there is in the Capitals dressing room. “He prove every year he’s one of the best defensemen.”
Lidstrom will become just the 14th player to hit the 1,500 mark. And while there are a lot of Hall of Famers in that club, including Gordie Howe (No. 1 at 1,767) and Mark Messier (No. 2 at 1,756), Lidstrom’s longevity has included play at an elite level even at age 41.
“He’s found a way to just play the way he does and make it there, and all really impressive 1,500 games,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Very few bad games in there, too.”
The numbers tell an amazing story. This is Lidstrom’s 20th season; in the 18 seasons where there were 82 games, the Swedish defenseman played in at least 76 every single time.
Lidstrom was an all-NHL first-team selection 11 times. He won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman an almost-unbelievable seven times. Since the award was given out first in 1953-54, only Bobby Orr (eight straight years) has won it more; Doug Harvey also captured in seven times.
In the meantime, Lidstrom also won four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and an Olympic gold medal.
“[I take] a lot of pride of being able to deliver when it really matters,” Lidstrom said in a radio appearance Thursday night.
And he’s still doing it.