A Matchup Inside the Matchup: Alex Radulov vs. Nick Lidstrom

March 30, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (5) battle for the puck in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Hockey, of course, is a team game. History has shown us that above all else, the best teams are the ones that play together in a figurative sense. You can have a red hot goalie (Jaroslav Halak, circa 2009-10), or the most skilled player on the ice (Alex Ovechkin), but almost always, the best team wins.

With that contingency out of the way, there's something to be said for individual moments of brilliance, those quick bursts of skill that can put your team over the proverbial hump and win a game in an instant. And so, we'll take a look at two of the players in this series imminently capable of doing so. It doesn't hurt that they'll likely see a lot of each other as the series goes on.

Alexander Radulov

#47 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators

6-1

200

Jul 05, 1986

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2011 - Alexander Radulov 9 3 4 7 3 4 0 0 0 21

Scouting Report

Assets
  • Profiles as a classic Russian right wing: A left-handed shooter with excellent shiftiness, stickhandling skills and the ability to finish. Can really dangle and likes the spotlight.
Flaws
  • Lacks intensity on a consistent basis and is occasionally prone to hiccups in his own end. Doesn't have enough desire to be the best he can be at the highest level (NHL).
Career Potential
  • Skilled scoring winger.

(scouting reports are courtesy of Fantasy Sports Services for SB Nation and do not necessarily represent my own opinion)

Alexander Radulov's role is one of the simplest on the team: put the puck in the net. Thus far, he's been contributing to goals at an elite level, like he never missed a beat. We saw him dissect Chicago's defense in one fell swoop, and do battle with Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom while coming out the victor in several contests behind the net and on the boards in Nashville's 4-1 victory at the Joe.

One of the things that has struck me about Radulov in his abbreviated 2011-12 tenure is how difficult it is for a defender to dislodge him from the puck. Along the wall, behind the net, or in the slot, AR47 is an elite possession player through just nine games, and I'll be interested to see how he deals with being defended by one of the world's best turnover creators in...

Nicklas Lidstrom

#5 / Defenseman / Detroit Red Wings

6-1

190

Apr 28, 1970

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2011 - Nicklas Lidstrom 70 11 23 34 21 28 4 0 0 148

Scouting Report

Assets
  • Uses his superior hockey intelligence and skill to dominate the game. An outstanding passer, he also has an incredibly accurate shot from the point. Plays calm and is very efficient in the defensive zone. Thrives with lots of ice time. Is a great lateral skater.
Flaws
  • Is not a physical player by any stretch of the imagination. Has started to wear down because of years of logging tons of ice time.
Career Potential
  • Future Hall-of-Fame defenseman.

I think it's reasonably fair to say that Radulov is already the Predators' most dangerous forward, and as such will draw the best his opposition has to offer, which is in this case Nicklas Lidstrom. In the eyes of some, Lidstrom's age will be used against him, but if his skill and effectiveness have declined, it's only been by a negligible amount.

He's not physical, but he rarely loses puck battles. He lacks the speed of a Ryan Suter, but you will almost never see him out maneuvered. Nicklas Lidstrom is what young defensemen should aspire to be, and yet, if Alex Radulov can slip by him just once or twice and the puck ends up past Jimmy Howard, the momentum in the series could turn on a dime.

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