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Wings' offense is defensive again

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Kronwall is congratulated by teammates having scoring his 10th goal of the season. Defensemen have now accounted for 32 goals this season for the Red Wings. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
DETROIT – Sports are filled with all sorts of statistical information – some useful, some not.

“I think there are stats on everything, so you could probably find some other weird stat that sounds good,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said.

However, when it comes to the offensive contributions by the Wings’ defensemen this season, it’s difficult to overlook one particular shining stat: 12-0-1 at home.

Following Saturday’s 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, that's
the Wings’ record when at least one defenseman scores this season at Joe Louis Arena. They are 17-5-1 overall when at least one defenseman scores, and Saturday was the first time this season that defensemen accounted for all of the scoring in regulation.

Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom each scored for Detroit Saturday, giving the defensive unit a league-leading 32 goals this season, ahead of Nashville (26) and Vancouver (25). It’s the seventh multiple goal game by the Wings’ defensive corps this season.

“It’s nice to have,” said center Henrik Zetterberg, of the defensive scoring. “We’ve always had that, we’ve always had defensemen who can really score goals and produce points. It helps us forwards to play better.”

Kronwall’s goal pulled the Wings even with the Blue Jackets when he snapped a shot from the slot that beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford at 11:34 of the first period. Kronwall’s balance made the play possible when he managed to stay upright, absorbing a check by Jackets forward Tomas Kubalik, taking a flip pass from Valtteri Filppula, and firing a shot between a pair of Jackets’ defensemen.

“It was more luck than anything,” Kronwall said. “Fil made a nice play in the neutral zone and I never really saw the guy coming from the bench. I don’t know if he let-up, but I was just able to squeeze by and the puck just bounced and slipped in. Just trying to hit the net and fortunately it went in.”

Lidstrom’s second-period power-play goal ended the Wings’ four-game drought with the man-advantage, which matched the team’s longest dry spell of the season. The Wings’ power play is now 4-for-35 in the last 13 games. The goal tied the score for the second time in the game when Lidstrom – as he often does – purposefully fired a shot wide for Tomas Holmstrom to play in front of the net. The puck missed the net and Holmstrom, but caromed off the back boards and in the net off of Sanford’s right skate.

“Nick’s shooting for the stick and sometimes when he doesn’t have a lane he’ll shoot it wide and he does that on purpose,” Kronwall said. “We also know that the boards in here are a little more lively than maybe other rinks. But that was a great shot and if it didn’t go in off the goalie, Homer was right there to hammer away.”

Led by Lidstrom and Kronwall, who have 10 goals each, scoring by Wings’ defensemen this season has been incredible with Ian White (6), Brad Stuart (4), Jonathan Ericsson (1) and Jakub Kindl (1) all contributing.

The Wings are nine-goals short if equaling last season’s goal production by the defensemen, which was anchored then by Lidstrom’s 16 and Kronwall’s 11.

The franchise’s single-season record for goals scored by defensemen was set in 1980-81 when seven players – Reed Larson (27), Willie Huber (15), Jean Hamel (5), Jim Korn (5), John Barrett (3), Rick Vasko (3) and Perry Miller (1) – combined for 59 tallies.

Unfortunately, the 1980-81 squad finished with just 56 points in the standings – second-lowest among the 21 NHL teams. This year's team already has 65 points with 34 games remaining on the schedule.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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