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Kronwall enjoys hitting more than scoring

Tuesday, 05.26.2009 / 3:45 PM ET / Features
By Larry Wigge  - Columnist
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Kronwall enjoys hitting more than scoring

It was Kronwall who stepped into Chicago winger Martin Havlat, exploding into him and knocking him backward to the ice and into Never-Never Land 13 minutes into the first period of Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. Kronwall was ejected from the game for the hit and had Blackhawks' fans declare him Public Enemy No. 1.

And it was the same Swedish defenseman who helped pick up the slack when Lidstrom was a no-go with a lower-body injury for Game 4 -- contributing two assists in 23:16, with three shots and two blocked shots. Ironically, the 28-year-old native of Stockholm had zero hits in helping the Red Wings win 6-1 and gain a 3-1 lead in the series. But he clearly wasn't under the radar. He rarely is.

"I firmly believe there's often a momentum change in the game when a player delivers a big hit ... just like there is with a big goal," Kronwall said. "Sometimes I think getting a big hit is better than getting a goal. In fact, I love it when someone comes up to me afterward and asks about a particular hit."

It's clear that every player possesses certain skills and loves to show them off. In Kronwall's case, there's more than just a hitman involved.

"He's a threat for us back there both physically and skill-wise -- a lot like Vladdy (former Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov) was," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood says. "He makes a big hit and sends a message, makes the other team think about where he is."

Sort of a silent assassin? You bet. But there's so much more that fascinates about Niklas Kronwall.

For starters, his name was spelled “Kronvall” in all of the NHL's publications -- until he won a Stanley Cup last year -- primarily because there was a mistake on his visa when he came to North America for the first time in 2003. Another oversight: Nik being overlooked for the 2006 Olympics until Vancouver's Mattias Ohlund was sidelined with an injury -- and then in Sweden's gold-medal victory he scored a goal.

It should come as no surprise that Lidstrom was the player Kronwall watched when he was growing up in Stockholm and playing for Djurgarden in the Swedish Elite League. It should also be pointed out, however, that he was also fascinated growing up by some of those Don Cherry “Rock'em Sock'em” videos, especially when he saw Scott Stevens laying someone out.

"I still love to go back and watch the videos of Scott Stevens and guys like that," Kronwall said with a big smile. "My eyes still light up when I see a guy kind of coasting into an open area just asking to be hit. To me, that's one of the best parts of the game."

But ...

"Yeah, yeah, I know I'm not the biggest guy in the world," the 6-foot, 189-pound defenseman added. "I have never thought that hitting is about size. It's all about timing. Opposing players' size has never limited me on the ice."

And there's something to one of those big hits that sparks the entire bench.

Kronwall shared the Red Wings hits lead in the playoffs going into Game 5 Wednesday with 38 apiece.

Smart, rugged, composed with the puck, and -- as Game 4 demonstrated -- disciplined, to the point where Blackhawks players kept trying to take his head off, or at least goad him into a fight, and he kept turning the other cheek or just skating away from the scrums.

He had to be out there, playing more minutes than any Red Wing except for Stuart because of the absence of Lidstrom.

"He's a sneaky hitter," said teammate Henrik Zetterberg. "You look up and he's standing still, but suddenly he sees an opening and BOOM! You've got to beware. I had some close calls with him when we were both in the Swedish Elite League. He just has good timing and he knows when to step up. I'm glad he's on my side."

Said coach Mike Babcock: "He's kind of like a predator."

It's that make-my-day mentality that keeps Niklas Kronwall on the radar. And much, much more.




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38 is the official Web site of the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit Red Wings and are trademarks of the Detroit Red Wings. NHL, the NHL Shield and the word mark NHL Winter Classic are registered trademarks and Original Six is a trademark of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.
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