Seeing as my last four posts have been about forwards, maybe it’s about time I write about a defenseman. It couldn’t be more perfect timing too as the NHL’s biggest hitter returns to the ice as the Detroit Red Wings face off against the Winnipeg Jets.
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Niklas Kronwall.
After suffering a knee injury in last year’s playoffs, the enforcer is ready for his season debut.
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall (knee) is expected to play for the first time since the Red Wings were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round last season. “I’m not nervous, but I’m definitely excited to get the jersey back on tonight,” he said Friday. “I got through a full practice on Tuesday and I’m ready to go.” Kronwall, 35, had 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) in 64 games last season, and has 365 points (74 goals, 291 assists) in 738 NHL games, all with the Red Wings. Detroit is 0-2-1 after a six-game winning streak, including a 4-3 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. “We’ve got to keep our urgency high for 60 minutes, and we haven’t been doing that,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.
So Jets, here’s a tip, keep your head up on the breakout because Kronwall will be on you quicker than a tramp on chips if you give him the opportunity.
On The Power Play
Through the first ten games of the 2016-17 season, the Red Wings are sitting right in the middle of the pack with a 19.5% success rate while on the power play, not terrible, but not impressive either. Over the last three NHL seasons, Kronwall has totaled 62 power play points during the regular season. Adding Kronwall’s prowess with the man advantage would certainly not hurt Detroit’s power play efforts. It would be interesting to see Kronwall play alongside Thomas Vanek and/or Frans Nielsen who are both currently tied for the lead in Red Wings in power play points this season.
Putting all statistics, injuries and age aside, it’s hard to deny that Niklas Kronwall is both a veteran and a leader. With 847 total NHL games under his belt, Kronwall would continue to provide invaluable wisdom for Detroit’s younger blue-liners. Kronwall has pretty much seen and done it all on every stage possible, something that only an experienced player can bring to the table.
Having Kronwall’s leadership back on the ice could possibly help lighten the load on some of Detroit’s other defensemen. While players like Jonathan Ericsson have been surprisingly decent so far this season, other players like Danny DeKeyser have struggled in their role. Our resident statistical expert Prashanth Iyer recently broke down DeKeyser’s struggles. Could having Kronwall in the lineup help DeKeyser find a more appropriate role? Perhaps a DeKeyser and Kronwall pairing could aid DD in being the defenseman that the Red Wings want and hope him to be.
In all my years of watching the NHL, I have never seen a defenseman perfect the backward skating bodycheck the way Kronwall has. His physicality coupled with his blistering shot and scorching speed is enough to strike fear into any opponent the Red Wings face.
That’s why Niklas Kronwall is my Player of the Day.