With Johan Franzen
making like Gordie Howe
over the final month of the regular season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s possible Henrik Zetterberg
has received just a little bit less attention than he’s used to getting.
But when the man who has broken a couple of Mr. Hockey’s records was sidelined Saturday with concussion-like symptoms, the Detroit Red Wings’ leading goal-scorer during the 2007-08 campaign was there to step up at a key moment.
Zetterberg’s power-play goal with 4:47 left in the first period broke a tie and was the deciding factor as the Wings edged the Dallas Stars 2-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Zetterberg, who scored 43 goals and was second only to Pavel Datsyuk with 92 points during the regular season, now has eight goals and 15 points in the postseason. His goal total is second only to Franzen’s franchise postseason record of 12, and the two are tied for the team lead in scoring.
Not that Zetterberg isn’t rooting for Franzen to make a quick comeback.
“He’s been playing unbelievable for us and he’s our scoring leader … it’s a big loss,” Zetterberg said of Franzen. “We don’t know that much, how his condition is, we just hope for the best and hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
Franzen, who is scheduled to be examined Monday, has already been ruled out for Game 3 that night in Dallas.
“It’s all about the player and his family first,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve got to get him checked out by the experts and find out what’s wrong or what’s right, and then we’ll go from there. So in the meantime we’ve got to suck it up and find a way to win.”
Dan Cleary moved up to center the second line in Franzen’s absence and Darren McCarty returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the series opener.
Given Johan Franzen
’s contributions this postseason, one would certainly be under the impression that the Wings would be hard-pressed to take a 2-0 series lead, right?
Not exactly. Darren Helm picked up his first NHL goal less than six minutes into the game, and Henrik Zetterberg broke a 1-1 tie on the power play as the Wings pulled within two victories of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-1 win over the Stars at Joe Louis Arena. ...more
Kids coming through — It’s an exciting time for the Red Wings, who have tied a franchise record with eight straight postseason victories and are two wins away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s a particularly thrilling period for young players like Darren Helm.
The 21-year-old center got a cup of coffee with Detroit late in the regular season, playing seven games, then was inserted into the playoff lineup for Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Nashville. Helm has played in every game since, the Red Wings haven’t lost, and Saturday night he even opened the scoring with the first goal of his NHL career.
“I’ve been playing all right, getting some chances in the past games,” Helm said. “(Jiri Hudler) just made a great play, I was able to put it in and it’s an exciting one for me. I’m glad to contribute and score for the team tonight.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock pointed to players like Helm and Valtteri Filppula, who scored in Game 1, in dispelling any notion that the Red Wings are an aging team whose window at pursuing the Cup may be closing.
“Everyone talks about how old we are, but you take Chelly (Chris Chelios) and Dom (Dominik Hasek) out of the mix, we’re not that old, and our best players are in the prime of their careers — with the exception of (Nicklas) Lidstrom, and he can play forever if he wants,” Babcock said.
“But I mean, Filppula’s a real good player for us, and obviously he’s a young kid and Hudler’s a good player for us and Helm, as you saw tonight. We have a good mix, but our young guys are good players.”
No overconfidence — It seems like eons ago now, but just over three weeks back the Red Wings were hardly a lock to advance past the first round.
When Chris Osgood took over from Hasek as the starting goaltender for Game 5 against the Predators, the Wings were coming off a pair of demoralizing losses in Nashville. Detroit won that game in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead, finished off the Preds two days later and have reeled off six more wins in a row since then.
Lest anyone think the players or coaching staff might be daydreaming of a potential Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers, the reality is they already know how quickly and drastically a team’s fortunes can change in the playoffs.
“Five minutes after I get home tonight, I’ll get scared about Game 3,” Babcock said. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve seen it go the wrong way too often. I’m a big believer in our team and how hard we work. We were here last year and it didn’t work out. You spend your whole life, if you’re in hockey, trying to win that thing, so you just want to do everything you can to get the opportunity.”
In all three series this postseason, Detroit has jumped to a 2-0 lead at home. The Wings gave the lead right back in Nashville, but in the second round the Wings kept their motors running and finished off Colorado with a sweep. To Osgood, that represents growth.
“I think we learned our lesson against Nashville in the first round,” Osgood said. “It’s not that we didn’t play well, we just didn’t do the little things right in Nashville and we made sure we did that in Colorado. We really played to our game plan, didn’t deviate from it whatsoever, and we ended up scoring a lot of goals.”
Tweaking the lineup — One rookie blueliner replaced another for the Stars in Game 2, as Matt Niskanen found his way back into the starting lineup at the expense of Mark Fistric. After getting Sergei Zubov back, Dallas coach Dave Tippett initially went with seven defensemen, but Niskanen ended up being scratched for Game 6 against San Jose and the series opener against Detroit.
There was hope veteran center Stu Barnes would be ready to return to the lineup. Barnes last played in Game 3 against San Jose; he’s been sidelined since then with a concussion. Barnes practiced on Friday, but a day later wasn’t deemed fit to play just yet.
“Stu is just average,” Tippett said. “He didn’t progress like we thought he would today.”
Dallas had a new injury concern to deal with after winger Jere Lehtinen hurt his leg in the first period Saturday and didn’t return.
Material from wire services, broadcast media and team online media was used in this report.