-- Ville Leino
understands the value of a great defenseman to a Stanley Cup contender. So when NHL.com recently asked him the importance of fellow Finnish countryman Kimmo Timonen
, Leino was more than willing to oblige.
"He's an awesome player who takes a lot of hits; his body is pretty banged up and he still goes," Leino said of his Philadelphia Flyers
teammate. "I think Prongs takes all the media attention and he should, but Kimmo is right there. I think he's a little underappreciated, but he's kind of like (Nicklas) Lidstrom a little bit. If you don't watch him, you don't really notice that he is that good.
"Once you start to watch him, you realize he doesn't make mistakes, always makes that good pass and always makes the right decision. So, yeah, he kind of reminds me of Lidstrom in that way."
Leino played with Lidstrom for a season and a-half in Detroit and would always marvel at the future Hall of Famer's ability to be so precise, so accurate and so determined every second of every shift.
Unlike Lidstrom, however, Timonen doesn't have the size to easily shrug off those bull rushes by opposing forwards. As the shortest defender along the Flyers' blue line at 5-foot-10, he's taken the brunt of the heavy hitting dished out by the Chicago Blackhawks throughout the course of his first Stanley Cup Final. But it hasn't really fazed the veteran of 11 NHL seasons.
"I don't really care," Timonen told NHL.com. "I'm used to it. It's nothing new to me. It's something … I've been taking hits for 12 years now so this is something that started a long time ago. It's been there my whole career and I don't really care."
Former Flyers defenseman and current television analyst Chris Therien, who compares Timonen to former defensive partner Eric Desjardins
, has an even greater insight being around the club each day.
"He is unheralded and smaller in stature to Pronger, but one of the things that sticks out when I talk to (coach Peter) Laviolette before games, is that his view on Kimmo Timonen
is an identical parallel to Pronger. He feels he's equally as important and not one is higher than the other on the totem pole. That says a lot when your coach says that.
"The only difference between the two is the stuff that's written about Pronger. He's not a guy who's going to run anyone through the boards, but he's able to contain guys -- nobody really beats him out of the corners."
To make up for his size, Timonen exhibits an intelligence and shiftiness unlike any other at his position in the League.
"Kimmo has been excellent all year," coach Peter Laviolette
said. "He plays the game every bit as good as Chris Pronger
. Defensively, he's always in position. I do think there's a different physical element when it comes to Chris's game as opposed to Kimmo's, but Kimmo is a good first pass, always in position, can play against anybody's best players on any given night and be successful."
"I think he's a little underappreciated, but he's kind of like (Nicklas) Lidstrom a little bit. If you don't watch him, you don't really notice that he is that good."
-- Ville Leino on Kimmo Timonen
Particularly in these playoffs where Timonen is second on the team in ice time (26:34) per game, third in blocked shots (53), eighth in hits (33) and the leader among the club's defenseman with 44 shots on goal.
Still, the only concern for Timonen is how his team will respond after dropping a 7-4 decision to the Blackhawks in Game 5 at United Center on Sunday night.
"I'm very disappointed because we all knew how big that game was and what that meant for us but now it's over," Timonen said. "We have to make sure we come up with a better effort."
Timonen did notch his first goal of the playoffs and the second of his career in Sunday's loss -- which put the Flyers in a 3-2 series hole. Game 6 is Wednesday in Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
Against the 'Hawks, Timonen admits he hasn't focused on just one or two players; rather, he prefers to focus on the entire team and how they perform as a complete five-man unit to generate offense.
"We don't discuss individual players -- we talk about the team game and how we, as five guys, aren't giving up odd man rushes such as 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s," Timonen said. "That's probably been the key for us and that applies to every skilled team out there. You have to take their time and space away."
While Timonen realizes it's no easy task containing Chicago's big guns on a regular basis, there's one player he admitted gave him fits when he played for Nashville in the early stages of his career.
"There have been a few guys in my time and I find that the bigger the guy is and the more skillful, it's always harder," he admitted. "For me, Jaromir Jagr
was probably the hardest guy to defend, but obviously every team has a few guys who are really tough players in the League If I had to name one player who was the toughest, though, Jagr would be it."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale