Niklas Kronwall has assumed a more prominent role for the Red Wings in the playoffs. For the first time in more than a dozen years a defenseman other than Nicklas Lidstrom is leading the team in minutes played.
Kronwall is a key component on the second power-play unit, one of the leaders on the penalty-kill and a solid contributor at even strength. He is leading all Wings in ice time (22:12 per game), hits (13) and blocked shots (eight) in the playoffs. He scored a power-play goal in Game 4 Wednesday versus Phoenix and had two assists in Game 3.
He is one of the main reasons the Wings swept the Coyotes in the first round and will have at least a week to rest before the next round.
“Kronwall’s a guy in the organization that has to come to the forefront,” coach Mike Babcock said. “He’s capable of playing the most minutes — power play, penalty-kill, even strength. He can be the most active. He’s a physical guy who can really make plays, and we think he’s an elite player.”
It’s clear how much the Red Wings missed Kronwall when he sat out the final five regular season games with an upper-body injury.
“For me personally, the more you play the more confidence you feel out there,” Kronwall said. “It feels like you’re taken on a little bigger role.”