VOORHEES, N.J. -- Chris Pronger
, by virtue of (very loud) word and deed, is the first name hockey fans think of when the topic of Philadelphia Flyers defensemen is raised.
However, with Pronger's seven-week absence due to a broken hand, it fell to others to pick up the slack. And while he might not have altered a whole lot in his game, Kimmo Timonen
played a major role in the Flyers advancing to the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Timonen had 4 points in seven games in the first round against the Buffalo Sabres, and led the League with a plus-9 rating. His average ice time of 24:38 was second on the team, but he was the only player on the team to average at least 4 minutes per game on the power-play and penalty-kill units.
Not much Timonen does will jump off the page. He'll never be Mike Green blazing through open ice, or Zdeno Chara teeing up a supersonic slap shot, or even Pronger with his overt physicality.
"I think he's a very underrated guy because he plays big minutes, plays in all situations and he's a competitor," fellow blueliner Sean O'Donnell told NHL.com. "He's got some of that Finnish Viking blood or whatever you want to call it in him. Takes a lot to take him out of the lineup. He plays through a lot of bumps and bruises."
And even at age 36, there doesn't seem to be any letdown in Timonen's game. He had nine hits and 12 penalty minutes in the first round, which is noticeable when you consider he had all of 20 penalty minutes in 23 games in last year's playoff run.
"It's one of those things," Timonen said. "My role is not to be the physical guy, but in the playoffs I think everybody has to do it. Doesn't matter if you're Danny Briere
or Chris Pronger
or whoever, you have be physical, you have to play your hardest. I do my part, too."
What Timonen doesn't really ever do is play anyone else's part. Those who watch Timonen the closest say nothing changed in his game whether Pronger was playing or not.
"He just does what he does," Braydon Coburn
, Timonen's defense partner for the last four seasons, told NHL.com. "He doesn't really change his game no matter what's going on. He just plays whatever situations he's in and plays them really well."
"I think he's a very underrated guy because he plays big minutes, plays in all situations and he's a competitor. He's got some of that Finnish Viking blood or whatever you want to call it in him. Takes a lot to take him out of the lineup. He plays through a lot of bumps and bruises." - Sean O'Donnell on Timonen
That's been a common theme to Timonen's 12-season NHL career, which began with the Nashville Predators before he joined the Flyers in July 2007. While he's flown a bit under the radar, those who get to be around him certainly appreciate him.
"I think more than anything it's his reliability," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's out there every day, he's in the lineup every day, he plays against everybody's best players, he plays in all situations for us. He does it quietly. It just doesn't generate a lot of hoopla throughout the League. Yet he's very business-like and very professional and very good at what he does."
"I think the think that's impressed me by getting to see him every day is how good he is defensively," O'Donnell said. "You look at how many times he stands up at the blue line and pokes pucks and how good his gaps are. A lot of d-men back off and don't make the mistakes, but they're not right in the guy's face, crowding him. And Kimmo is very good about not letting them in, or if they do get in, try to turn them up and buy time. He's right in their face. Little things like that that would be hard to play against. Getting to see him every day, I notice a lot."
"He's so consistent," Coburn said. "He's been playing at this high level for as long as I've been playing with him. That's the one thing -- he's been consistently good for a couple years, which is amazing." Scott Hartnell
has known Timonen longer than anyone with the Flyers. The two were teammates for six seasons in Nashville and were traded to Philadelphia together.
"He wants to be a winner in this League," Hartnell said. "He's had a great career, been to a couple All-Star games, but he hasn't won the Stanley Cup. We were close last year, and being there you could really see it in his eyes, he really wanted to win it. Hopefully there's nothing getting in our way this year."
In his typically understated way, Timonen won't say he's pushing any harder, or is playing any better, than previous years.
"I wouldn't say I'm more focused (on winning), but I realize the window is narrowing down," he said. "I'm 36 years old. You don't get too many chances to play any more. I don't think I'm more focused, but I'm realizing I'm getting older.
"I'm here to win the Stanley Cup. Whatever I do on the ice, I do my job and if that's good, that's good."