It's the best time of year!
For the past few seasons, the Detroit Red Wings have waited with bated breath after the playoffs have ended, wondering just what Nicklas Lidstrom was going to do. Retire? Play another season? Thankfully, it was always the latter option.
This year is no exception. And Red Wings fans are concerned that he may opt for the first choice.
The Red Wings are down in their series against the Nashville Predators 3-1, on the verge of leaving the playoffs in the first round for the first time since 2006. And for the first time in... well, no one really knows, Lidstrom is not looking like his usual perfect human self. He's still playing solid defense, but it looks as though there are lapses in judgement and times when he cannot skate as fast as he used to. A bad bone bruise in an ankle will do that to any player.
The Red Wings had an unwanted glimpse this season of a team sans Lidstrom, and it wasn't pretty. Taking out one of the best defensemen in NHL history from any team hurts, no matter what their age, no matter what their play. Without Lidstrom, the Red Wings went 3-6-2 and were outscored 32-28. Their power play lacked. Their penalty kill suffered. Even being nearly forty-two years of age, Lidstrom is still a key component of the Red Wings' team, and no matter when they lose him, it will be a devastating loss.
They may finally be losing him sooner rather than later.
Even if you hate the Red Wings, can anyone really say anything bad about Lidstrom? His nickname is The Perfect Human after all, but where can you find a more team-oriented, humble, classier captain in the NHL right now, where people have a hard time trying to say something negative about him? Naturally, you can say terrible things about the team he's on, but about him personally, about his style of play? He's won seven Norris trophies, four Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe, and been in the NHL All Star Game eleven times, and none of this has caused him to be overly pompous in any interview or to any fan.
While the past few off-seasons have yielded positive results with Lidstrom re-signing, this season is more concerning. Lidstrom had the least amount of points and lengthiest injury of his career this year. Is it his age? After all, the Swede is closing in on 42, and not a lot of hockey players are effective into their forties.
Watch tonight's Red Wings/Predators game not for the outcome, but for Lidstrom. This match could be the last time anyone sees him play in the NHL. Regardless of whether Red Wings fans want to admit any of this or not, it needs to be noted and acknowledged.
Red Wings fans, whether they will admit it or not, have taken him for granted; they have grown used to his extraordinary defensive skills, and they have just become a given whenever he's on the ice. Don't do that tonight.
Watch the little things he does - how he can bat a puck out of the air at the blue line on the power play, how he always seems to know what's going to happen on a two-on-one when he's the one, how he does a little stutter step on the power play to freeze the defender closing in on him, how he knows exactly where to shoot a slap shot wide so it bounces perfectly in front of the net for a solid scoring chance, how he just seems to effortlessly know exactly what to do and where to be.
Keep it in the forefront of your mind that this is a Hockey Hall of Fame player and one of the best defensemen ever to grace the National Hockey League. Don't take Lidstrom for granted tonight. Watch every little move he makes.
Watch Nicklas Lidstrom like you've never watched him before. Because it may just be the last time anyone ever sees him play.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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