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Kronwall enjoys hitting more than scoring

Tuesday, 05.26.2009 / 3:45 PM ET / Features
By Larry Wigge  - NHL.com 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.



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80