Niklas Kronwall Crushes Latvian Forward At IIHF World Championship

I love big hockey hits, and I'm in love with this hit from Niklas Kronwall in Sweden's game against Latvia on Wednesday at the IIHF World Championship. It's a gloriously clean and downright silly display of split-second decision-making and the ability to turn on a dime, then crush an opponent who has no idea he's coming.

"Oh, hey. I'm gonna go this way, drop back and play defense, wait for the other team to gather the puck and attack."

"Wait. That dude already has the puck?"

[0.3 seconds pass, Kronwall's ass meets dude's face]

You won't remember the guy who got hit here, 24-year-old Latvian forward Kaspars Saulietis, but you will likely remember this hit for at least a little while.

Here's my question, though: Hits like this are not commonplace in the Worlds. It's just not the style of play that's typical in the tournament. So why does this NHL veteran, playing for a team that's basically guaranteed to wallop its Latvian foes in this game, feel the need to lay a hit on an unsuspecting kid who makes his money with Yunost Minsk in the Belarusian Extraleague?

Don't get me wrong: I love the hit. It's clean. It's hockey. It's awesome. I could watch it 20 more times, and I probably will do just that. But I just don't understand the thinking that goes behind the decision to do this. Not in a game like this.

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