There are a fair number of NHL players who make their teammates better. There aren't quite as many who make star players better.
Meet Detroit's Johan Franzen
"Mule" as he is affectionately known around Joe Louis Arena, is one of those old-school, let's-go-to-the-front-of-the-net types who excels at converting loose pucks and rebounds into goals. He has been especially ornery, as his nickname implies, in the last two playoffs, first scoring 13 goals in 16 games as the Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup, and 12 in 23 games as Detroit went seven games in the 2009 finals.
This season, a knee injury took Franzen out of the lineup for 55 games. But upon his return to the lineup just prior to the Olympics, the Red Wings got it together, thanks in large part to the chemistry between Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk
He can make plays all day long, but if no one ever shoots it in the net, what good is it? 'Mule' is a huge talent, he's a big man and he's excited; he hasn't played all year and he's fresh. That helps Pavel and it helps our whole team. - Detroit coach Mike Babcock
In the first 11 games Franzen had been back in the lineup, Datsyuk was, well, Pavel Datsyuk
, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists while shaking off the doldrums of a disappointing season.
"He can make plays all day long, but if no one ever shoots it in the net, what good is it?" Babcock said of Datsyuk. "'Mule' is a huge talent, he's a big man and he's excited; he hasn't played all year and he's fresh. That helps Pavel and it helps our whole team."
"I know they were good together before, but not that good," goaltender Chris Osgood told Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. "They are really clicking. Pav is a guy that makes everybody around him real good, and I think Mule does the same for him. Mule is a big guy who works the flank and when he goes to the net,
Pav is able to get him the puck.
"It's a give-and-take thing for both. They really complement each other well, and Pav's not the easiest guy to play with. He does a lot of different things that other players can't do and Mule is able to read off him real well."