Kronwall's timing bang on

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:27 PM ET

DETROIT — Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall showed he’s a big hitter against the Chicago Blackhawks.

He’s also proved to be a big-time player.

Kronwall became the centre of attention in the third game of the Western Conference final by rocking Martin Havlat’s world with that now well-publicized open-ice check.

With all eyes of the United Center on him last game – and Nicklas Lidstrom on the shelf due to his “lower body” injury – Kronwall demonstrated he’s more than just a banger.

“When someone else is the lead dog, you don’t get those moments,” Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “You don’t get to be the poise guy under the heat making the play. I thought Kronwall did a real good job of leadership. (Brad) Stuart, (Brian) Rafalski, all of them. If I’m building a team in the National Hockey League, I want Kronwall on my team.”

All the reasons why you want Kronwall on your team were on full display during the past couple of games.

As advertised, he can hit like a freight train. In fact, had skilled winger Patrick Kane not noticed Kronwall at the last second during Sunday’s clash, the Hawks may be twice as up in arms.

But Kronwall, the 28-year-old chosen in the first round of the 2000 draft, was also a key cog on the power play – where he collected both of his assists – while skating in 23 minutes of action.

“I had a good time,” he said of having the extra opportunity because of Lidstrom’s absence. “I think we all tried to chip in a little bit, especially on the power play with him being out. But ... hopefully he can be back here as soon as possible.”

If Lidstrom returns for tomorrow’s game, Kronwall won’t likely be in that playmaking role. Which means he can return to being a physical force.

“I had some close calls in Sweden with him and he just has great timing,” said Wings centre Henrik Zetterberg. “He knows when to step up and not, but I’m glad he’s on my side.”

Instead, it’s the Blackhawks who have to keep their eyes up.

“Well, they know he’s out there. ... and no one likes getting hit like that,” Babcock said. “Who does he usually get? They’re usually puck guys. I think it’s a great thing.

“I think he’s a factor. I really believe that. If you get dinged a couple of times or you see guys getting dinged, you know (he’s) out there.”

Kronwall said he doubted his hits create much of an intimidation factor.

“I think we’re all adults and we’ve all been playing this game for quite many years. I don’t know if that intimidation factor is that big any more,” he said. “I really don’t try to think too much about that. I just try to worry about my own game and make sure that I do what I need to do to be my best out there.

“If that makes them pay more attention, then good for us.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos