Penguins Notebook: Lidstrom, 40, sets standards for defensemen
Share with others:
Kris Letang is 23 years old and making a spirited run at his first Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.
That's pretty impressive.
But not as much as this: Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit is 40 and making a serious run at this seventh.
"This guy is the man," Letang said. "Totally another class."
Lidstrom enters the Red Wings' game tonight at Consol Energy Center tonight with 11 goals and 31 assists in 45 games, the most points of any NHL defenseman before Monday night's games.
And it's not all about stats, because Lidstrom hardly is one-dimensional. He has played 1,457 games in the league, and if there's a flaw in his game, no one has detected it yet.
"He's smart, he supports the puck, he reads the play really well," Letang said. "Let's say he's getting forechecked. He's not going to read only the first guy coming at him; he's going to read the three guys coming at him.
"He's always going to play the puck in a good position, and he never gets beaten. He's so tough to play against."
Letang, who is developing into a force at both ends of the rink, admits a particular fondness for defensemen in the Paul Coffey mold, who can make breathtaking rushes.
That's not Lidstrom's game, but it hardly detracts from the accomplishments that will earn him induction to the Hall of Fame the moment he becomes eligible.
"As a complete defenseman," Letang said, "he's the role model for everybody."
Max Talbot got the two most important goals of his career against Detroit -- he accounted for all of the Penguins' offense in their 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final at Joe Louis Arena -- and would like to pick up a point or two against the Red Wings again tonight.
That's because Talbot, who has been cast primarily in energy/defensive roles, does not have a goal in 20 games, or a point in 11.
And while that drought doesn't detract from his value, he acknowledged that it's fun and satisfying to be involved in the offense occasionally.
"Obviously, you want to be part of the scoresheet sometimes," he said. "It's not like I'm playing horrible hockey. I feel like I've been part of this.
"We've been killing [penalties] well. Defensively, I've been strong. ... I'd love to do more, but it's not like I'm in a slump and can't do anything right."
The Penguins have the No. 1 penalty-killing unit in the NHL, with an efficiency rate of 87.6 percent.
They have, however, been less effective while short-handed at home than on the road.
The Penguins have killed 90.6 percent of the power plays they've faced in away games, but just 84.7 percent of those at home.
Now, 84.7 percent isn't bad -- it would have tied them for seventh place in the overall rankings before Monday night's games -- but the disparity between that and what they've done on the road is big enough to be noteworthy.
"There have been more bad penalties at home than there have been on the road, for sure," left winger Matt Cooke said. "It seems, in my short-term memory, at least, we've put a lot of stress on our [penalty-killing unit] at home. We've been in the box a little more than we have on the road."
The Penguins won't have center Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring with 66 points, for the sixth consecutive game tonight because of a concussion.
And while there's no indication Crosby will be back anytime soon -- he apparently still doesn't feel well enough for off-ice workouts, the first step in his return -- the Penguins do seem to be getting used to playing without him.
Not that he isn't missed.
"It's tough to see his equipment hanging there when you come to work every day," linemate Chris Kunitz said. "It's something you think about.
"You can't replace a guy like Sid, no matter what you try to do, or how you change the [forward] combinations. You just have to withstand however many games you have to until he gets back."
First Published January 18, 2011 12:00 am