As I weigh the pros and superpros of exclusively posting Nick Lidstrom things for the remainder of this blog's life, let us nostalgia-bate for a bit longer and look back at some of the man's career highlights.
A common theme I've seen among Lidstrom recollections in the past week is how Nick's career was such a lengthy plateau of unparallelled consistency that it's difficult to point out the "wow" moments. I don't know what you all are smoking (actually I agree, I'm just trying to be dramatic to beef up this shit I wrote), but here are 10 standout highlights from the Greatest Red Wing I've Ever Seen Because Yzerman Said He Was Better And Stevie's Not a Liar. ("GRWIESBYSHWBASNAL" Underoos will be available in the TTD store shortly.)
The official Lidstrom retirement post proper is here in case you were stupid and missed it. I'm not moving on yet and he gets this additional material because he's arguably one of the 10 greatest NHL players ever. So, here it is:
#10 ~ NICK DANGLES
November 21, 2010. The Flames had the Red Wings dead to rights at Joe Louis Arena, holding a two-goal lead late in the 3rd period. The Wings miraculously pushed the game to overtime with the help of a goal from Henrik Zetterberg with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation. Thanks to that, we got to see this: a deke so awesome that Miikka Kiprusoff actually pulled a mysterious third hamstring on the save attempt. At the time, I remember all of us not only celebrating the goal, but pointing out how hilariously unnecessary the deke was. But I don't know man. After calling off work to watch this video another 500 times, I have to say the old man might've actually known what he was doing. It was a tougher angle as a left-handed shot, and perhaps he was anticipating the defender's stick being in his shooting lane. Regardless, the result was awesome.
So was the fan who nearly threw their child through the Joe Louis roof right after the goal.
#9 ~ THE NICK TRICK
Less than a month later, Lidstrom -- who apparently sees nothing wrong with having a 37 page resume -- decided to add "oldest player to record his first hat trick" to his long list of achievements.
The super slow-mo on the 2nd goal in particular is gorgeous; it makes me pregnant when I watch it. All three goals came via Nick's signature dart-like slapper, and against the Blues, and right around Christmas time (Santa!), so this was just an exquisite hockey performance.
#8 ~ THIS PASS
Never mind the fact that the following highlight is from a December game in which the Wings ended up losing at home to the Oilers by three goals. Just watch.
Nick made a living using a seemingly bottomless toolbox, but perhaps my favorite tool of his (heh) was his ability to hand-place a pass like this onto a teammate's stick from another zip code. It's about as long of a pass as one can legally make in hockey -- goal line to opposing blue line -- and it resulted in a goal with time expiring in the period. The impact of the play in the grand scheme of things was next to nothing (aside from some creepy guy with a blog remembering it 2 and 1/2 years later), but I needed something to represent Nick's insane goal line-to-goal line vision. Head up all the way, always a step ahead.
#7 ~ NICK BOUNCES PREDATORS FROM PLAYOFFS
Way back in the year 2008 when the Red Wings were still capable of beating the Nashville Predators in a playoff series, Nick Lidstrom scored a goal against future homeless person Dan Ellis that put Detroit up 1-0. That does little to tell you anything, though, so how about he shot the puck from 15 feet inside the red line.
We look back now at the 2008 Wings as a mighty squad, but remember: with this Game 6 against Nashville more than half over, we were still tied and thus still in need of a goal to prevent an unfathomable first round Game 7. Nick picked his target and sent a bouncing, golf-like chip shot down the ice and over Dan Ellis' shoulder for the goal.
#6 ~ GOLDEN NICK-ET
I'll destroy my own work with unfunny puns if I choose, leave me alone.
It's always hard for me to judge where Olympic competition falls on the measuring stick of hockey successes, so #6 will have to do. Truth be told, it probably would've cracked the top-5 had he scored this goal for USA.
You'll have to excuse the fact that Peter Forsberg is involved. Nick, as he did so many times throughout his career, leaned into a drop pass just inside the blue line with a perfect slap shot, resulting in the gold medal-winning goal for the Swedes. Bob Cole on the call, a goosebump-inducing camera replay at the 1:13 mark, and an opening cameo by Tomas Holmstrom's crotch.
#5 ~ NICK SAVES HASEK
Mike Grier might still be thinking about this play. In the 2007 Western semis, the Wings were still trying to wash the taste of 2006 out of their mouth while battling the Sharks in a difficult series. After stealing Game 4 in improbable fashion, they had a chance to close out Game 6 and take a huge step for this newer core of players. One of the oldest of the old guard saw to it that he would personally protect their one-goal lead after Dominik Hasek wandered over to a corner to keel over and die. Nick ripped out the hearts of the 2007 Sharks with this diving save, and the Wings went on to win the game and the series.
#4 ~ VINTAGE NICK
Game 4, 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. On a night where the result felt inevitable, we still needed, you know, goals to officially win the hockey game. This was the first of those goals, and would have been the Cup-winning goal if not for Eric Lindros' meaningless tally in the waning seconds of regulation.
To date, I don't remember seeing a puck shoot back out of the net with the velocity that this one did. Classic Nick goal, right inside the blue line above. Classic Hextall, letting in a 5-hole goal in the final seconds of a period. Classic guy with a cigar at the 0:33 mark, doing his cigar thing.
#3 ~ THE PERFECT ONE TIMER
Game 2 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals felt about as unbearable as things can feel. The game was tied in the late stages of the 3rd period, with Carolina owning a 1-0 lead in the series. After blowing the first two games of the Vancouver series at home, doing the same in the Finals would've resulted in .... things I don't want to think about. Like the city being up and moved to Mexico, at the very least. It's one of those weird butterfly effect things that I'm glad didn't happen. Hey that was a bad movie.
With all of that in mind, Nick Lidstrom once again saved the 2002 Red Wings with a monster performance. He played a staggering 35 minutes in a 60 minute contest. (To put that in perspective, Cory Emmerton somehow played fewer total minutes than that over the course of 76 games this season.) A second consecutive overtime loomed large as Nick teed up a one timer that found daylight over Arturs Irbe's shoulder, and the place went completely nuts.
#2 ~ NICK SAVES VERNON
...and then some. Oh my god.
This was Game 2 of the 1997 conference finals. While the Wings had won a major battle in their March 26th matchup with the Avalanche, Colorado was still largely winning the war between the two teams. They took Game 1 from us, and midway through this one they were dominant and well on their way to a 2-0 series lead.
But the Wings clawed back in it, somehow ended up with a lead in this game and with over two minutes to go in the 3rd period, Nick Lidstrom (and then Darren McCarty) saves the soul of every onlooking Red Wing fan. It's possible that the only thing separating us from our current reality and that of an alternate universe in which the Avalanche have like a 1,400-game winning streak and our planet is ruled by a tentacled / fire-breathing Marc Crawford is the slender blade of Lidstrom's stick. Sort of a clutch play.
#1 ~ THE NICK LIDSTROM GOAL
You would know it by that title, it is so obvious. Nick saved an entire season, fan base, civilization (maybe), and Dan Cloutier Beach Ball company (definitely) in one enormous, center ice slap shot.
I love when you can refer a goal as simply "The (Player) Goal". You know what the Yzerman Goal is, what the Larionov Goal is, what the McCarty Goal is, and certainly you know this one. I'll never forget, being up too late to be able to wake up alive the next morning to go to school, nervous as all hell watching a 13" TV in my bedroom -- and not caring at all that I was yelling like I was on fire when Lids scored from the red line. What a shot.