COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
By Dan Di Sciullo
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - What do you get the future Hall of Fame defenseman who has everything for Christmas this year?
For Nicklas Lidstrom, his gift came Wednesday night when the 40-year-old achieved something that had surprisingly eluded him during his two decades in the NHL.
Lidstrom recorded the first hat trick of his career in Detroit's 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. That's right, the man with six Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cup titles, a Conn Smythe and an Olympic Gold medal had never scored three goals in a game.
Not that it's an easy task for a defenseman to score three goals in the NHL; in fact, Lidstrom was just the fourth blueliner in club history to record a hat trick. The last was former Red Wing Mathieu Schneider, who until Lidstrom broke the record on Wednesday had been the oldest defenseman in NHL history to notch a three-goal game. Schneider was 37 years old when he set the previous record.
Lidstrom was also the oldest player in league history to post their first career hat trick. A 36-year-old Scott Mellanby set the previous mark while with St. Louis on March 6, 2003.
The three-goal night came in the 1,442nd game of Lidstrom's storied career. Perhaps, there was something in the air to allow this feat to finally happen as Lidstrom recorded just one of the four hat tricks in the NHL on Wednesday.
Lidstrom didn't seem to mind that his first goal of the night should have been gloved by St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak, or that the tally that clinched the hat trick came on an empty-netter. He was just happy to add yet another positive hockey experience to a career loaded with them.
"It's a great feeling to finally get one," said Lidstrom. "After 19 years and having a lot of opportunities, it's nice to get some bounces."
Although it has been pointed out countless times already, it is truly uncanny how well Lidstrom is playing at his age. With 26 points in 30 games this season, the Swede known to his teammates as "The Perfect Human" is among the league leaders in scoring by a defenseman and it's conceivable that he could win his seventh Norris Trophy.
And, with the Red Wings currently atop the Western Conference standings, Lidstrom is still in the position to help Detroit add another Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena.
At some point, of course, Lidstrom's skills will wear off, but at present it appears that he has at least a couple of good years left. Maybe the fact that Lidstrom relies so heavily on his brains to outsmart the competition has enabled him to stave off his inevitable physical decline.
Not to say that the smooth-skating Lidstrom is not a physically-gifted player. After all, a guy who has missed less than 20 games due to injury in a nearly 20-year NHL career is obviously doing something right. But, his hockey intelligence is always what set him apart. Now, with the entirety of his vast hockey experience to draw upon, Lidstrom's mental edge seems to be greater than ever.
"Like fine wine, he gets better with age," Babcock said.
Luckily for all of us who love watching hockey greatness, there still seem to be a few vintage Lidstrom years left on the shelf.