During his 20-season NHL career in Detroit, Nicklas Lidstrom became the poster boy for all things hockey in Detroit. He won four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, the Conn Smyth Trophy and had made 12 All-Star appearances. But after serving the last six years as the Red Wings' captain, Lidstrom decided to hang his skates up for good following the 2011-12 season.
When the shortened 2013 campaign began, the Red Wings had to adjust to life without their highly-regarded captain. But despite the loss of Lidstrom, Detroit's leadership didn't drop off as first-year captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternate captain Pavel Datsyuk immediately filled the role Lidstrom mastered.
After suffering a tough loss to the league's No. 1 team in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, the Red Wings bounced back. They flew back to Detroit, got some much needed rest and made some adjustments at practice. The two-day break between games was just what they needed as they returned to Chicago and tied the series with the Blackhawks. After Game 2, the Red Wings credited the strong leaders for their ability to come back and make their mark in the series.
"That's what makes (Blackhawks captain Jonathan) Toews, Datsyuk and Zetterberg different. Those guys, that's what they do," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said following his team's 4-1 win against the Blackhawks on Saturday. "They just compete. When it doesn't go their way, they dig down and find a way to go harder and that's why you want them around. That's a great example for the rest of your team."
Since he was appointed as as the Red Wings' alternate captain in 2005, Zetterberg's leadership skills have played a significant role in shaping Detroit's team. His teammates recognize that and feel confident in the work he puts in every game.
"He's just a competitor. It's nothing new, I'm not surprised," Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said of Zetterberg. "(Today) I thought he was one of the hardest working guys on the ice for both teams. He's our leader. He's the guy that goes in there, him and (Datsyuk) every single night. They go out there and they set the tone for us. They've been doing a great job for us here."
While his teammates continue to credit him for the improvement they've seen as the season has progressed, Zetterberg believes the results come from his team's depth and chemistry.
"We kept playing, we didn't set back anything. We wanted to see that next goal," Zetterberg said on Saturday afternoon. "I think we wanted to come out and play better. We wanted to come out and do better than we did in Game 1. We knew we could play better, it was nice to see we could do it."