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THN at the Stanley Cup: Historic night for Lidstrom, Swedish hockey

Nicklas Lidstrom was the first European captain to accept the Cup and could win his sixth Norris Trophy later this month. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Nicklas Lidstrom was the first European captain to accept the Cup and could win his sixth Norris Trophy later this month. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH - Chalk one up for Team Sweden.

On an historic night in Pittsburgh, when Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European captain to accept the Stanley Cup, fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg was also named most valuable player of the playoffs.

Lidstrom, who is certain to be named the NHL’s best defenseman for the sixth time in his career, accepted NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s invitation to, “Come and get the Stanley Cup. It’s yours to take back to HockeyTown,” hoisted it over his head, took a quick lap around one half of the ice and then handed it to veteran Dallas Drake who made it to the final for the first time in his 15 year career. It was a very nice touch.

It what was unmistakably the best Stanley Cup final since the Rangers beat the Canucks in seven games in 1994, there was no doubt the best team won. In fact, Detroit arguably out-played Pittsburgh in all six games, but giving credit where credit is due, the Pens refused to die, right up to the very last second when they came within a playoff beard whisker of tying the game. But the Wings held on for a 3-2 victory.

There were all kinds of storylines in this series, from the Penguins having two of the game’s best players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, to the Red Wings having two of the game’s most complete players in Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, to Dominik Hasek and Chris Chelios not playing, to Dan Cleary becoming the first Newfoundlander to have his name on the Stanley Cup, to Game 5 being one of the best hockey games ever played.

But no story is bigger than the quiet and humble Lidstrom, who took over as the Red Wings captain when Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman retired, being the first Euro captain to win the Mug.

“We’re really proud of Nick,” said Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, standing on the ice after the game watching his players celebrate. “Sweden won a World Championship and now Nick has won the Stanley Cup as our captain. He is a very, very strong leader. He and Stevie are very similar. It is a quiet leadership, but when they speak up, the other players listen. He is a humble guy…like most hockey players.”

During the playoffs there has been plenty of discussion by reporters about where Lidstrom ranks among the best defensemen in history. The general consensus is he has supplanted Doug Harvey at the No. 2 spot behind Bobby Orr, the player many consider the best of all-time.

THE HOCKEY NEWS GAME 6 THREE STARS
1. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit
2. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh

For Newfoundland!
Dan Cleary didn’t just win the Cup for himself.

“It was great to be on the ice at the buzzer,” Cleary said. “I kind of knew I’d be out there because (Babcock) told me to be ready. I won it for Newfoundland. It’s something I’m proud of and I can’t wait to bring the Cup home.”

Poor Darren Helm
The Red Wings’ rookie center injured his leg in the first period and had to leave the game. Well, sort of.

With his team having a chance to win the Cup, he limped back to the bench and sat at the end so he could take part in the championship celebration. Keep an eye on this kid; he is going to be a very effective two-way player.

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What a Conn job
Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, who is rapidly emerging as one of the NHL’s most prolific two-way players, was rightfully named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

With a goal and an assist in the final game, Zetterberg closed the playoffs with 13 goals and 27 points in 22 games to place second in post-season scoring behind Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. While they both had the same number of points, Crosby played two fewer games.

If you thought Zetterberg looked a little confused when he was announced the winner, you are right.

“I didn’t hear my name,” Zetterberg said. “The guys pushed me towards (Bettman). It was a great feeling and it is something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

Then came the confusing part.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I skated around for a while and took it back to the rest of the guys,” Zetterberg said with a laugh.

End of an era?
Have we seen the last of The Dominator?

A source says Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek, 42, is interested in returning to the team and the Wings may be interested in having him return as Chris Osgood’s backup. Somehow, though, when the euphoria of winning eases up, you’d have to think the Red Wings will look for somebody a little younger to backup Osgood.

Missing vet
Couldn’t quite understand why coach Mike Babcock of the Red Wings continued to go with Andreas Lilja on defense, rather than veteran Chris Chelios.

Lilja played poorly in Game 5 and on his first shift of Game 6 had the puck stripped from him twice in his own zone. Lilja may one day develop into a solid NHLer, but Chelios – even at 46 – would have been a safer bet. The hot rumor is the two are not on speaking terms, but I did notice Chelios giving the coach a celebratory hug after the game.

Icing on the cake
Warm, humid weather in Pittsburgh Wednesday meant Dan ‘The Ice Man’ Craig had to make adjustments to how the ice was prepared.

It is normally kept at between 20-22 degrees (Fahrenheit), but it was dropped to 18 for Game 6. “We also shave the ice a little more,” Craig said. “We’d normally fill about half a bucket (of the Zamboni), but for this game we’d do about three quarters of a bucket. We regulate the amount of water we put down on the ice so we’ll have a quick freeze.”

The water temperature is 140 degrees.

THN senior writer Mike Brophy is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read his other entries, click HERE.

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