When the Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night it will mark a significant milestone for Nicklas Lidstrom, who will become just the 14th player in NHL history to play in 1,500 regular season games.
One of the best defensemen to ever play the game, Lidstrom, even at 41 ,remains one of the elite players in the league. He’s a seven-time Norris Trophy winner, became the first European-born player to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy for MVP of the playoffs all in addition to winning the Stanley Cup four times.
“I think he’s one of the best defensemen in the league and probably all the time,” Alex Ovechkin said when asked about the Detroit captain. “He just know what he have to do next. You can make lots of moves and he knows the game, he reads the game well. He have that kind of experience not everybody have.”
Lidstrom, in his 20th NHL season, has long been a role model for Swedish players over the course of his career and his longevity and poise is not lost on Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, even if they play center as opposed to defense.
“He’s playing so simple,” Backstrom said. “He moves the puck quick, not any hard passes just simple. He always put himself in the right position out there that’s why I think he’s the best.”
Said Johansson: “Of course he’s one of the best players Sweden’s ever had and I think one of the best defensemen in this league -- of all time. He’s obviously a big role model and has always been it’s amazing that he gets rewarded for it.”
While Backstrom and Johansson may have not looked at Lidstrom as a direct role model considering they play a different position than he does, Washington’s Karl Alzner has always tried to model himself after players like the future hall of famer.
Imagining what it would take to stay healthy and be successful over the course of 1,500 NHL games is something that Alzner admits is tough to fathom. Over the course of his career, Lidstrom has played at least 80 games in 14 seasons.
“That’s insane. Fifteen-hundred games is a tough milestone, not a lot of guys get there,” Alzner said. “I think it has to do with obviously being as skilled as he is but the style he plays. I don’t know who a good example is but someone who’s been crashing and banging for 1,500 games I don’t think the body can hold up. He’s found a way to play the way he does and make it there. And they’re all really impressive 1,500 games, there are very few bad games in there.”