Winning the Stanley Cup with Defense, Leadership, Experience–and Europeans

The 2008 Stanley Cup final round was just great hockey to watch. With so many players from so many different countries, it really shows there is a growing world wide love for the game.

Both teams were great defensively. Most involved in the sport are quite well aware that, to win a championship at any level, a team has to be outstanding defensively. Pittsburgh was very good defensively-Detroit was outstanding.

Leadership from captains Crosby and Lidstrom on down through both rosters was evident every game. And in the process, as Eric Duhatschek pointed out in his June 5,2008 Globe and Mail article, Lidstrom became the first European captain of a Stanley Cup winning team.

“It’s something I’m very proud of,” said Lidstrom, after he received the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday night after the Red Wings closed out the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 nail-biter, which them the best-of-seven series in six hard-fought games. Playing against a high-octane Penguins’ attack that obliterated three successive Eastern Conference opponents, the Red Wings won their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years with defence, pure and simple. They surrendered just 10 goals in six games, with Lidstrom leading the way.

“The main thing is, we didn’t get rattled,” said Lidstrom. “Experience has a lot to do with that. That gives the whole team some calmness – that we’re not going to panic.”

In the opening period, the Swedish trio of Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Zetterberg killed 93 seconds of a two-man advantage in the first period, an opportunity that could have changed the tone and tenor of the game.

That clean efficient kill demonstrated the Red Wings’ twin trademarks — skill and poise — both of which are embodied in Lidstrom’s play. He doesn’t have Malkin’s “wow” factor; or Sidney Crosby’s, or even Zetterberg’s. He just gets the job done, in the same calm fashion as the rest of his team.

Experience was an advantage Detroit had in the finals and it is what all those super talented young Pittsburgh players gained for the next time.

Can’t wait until next year.