DETROIT – Depending on his disposition, Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has been known to participate in extracurricular activities after the whistle.
It’s something that Mule plans to shy away from as the Red Wings enter their Atlantic Division semifinal series against the Bruins Friday night at Boston’s TD Garden.
“It depends on what kind of mood you’re in at the moment,” joked Franzen following Thursday’s final practice at Joe Louis Arena before the team left for Boston. “Sometimes you’re so pissed at yourself or whatever, not playing good enough or something like that and it’s tough to turn the other cheek and walk away. But I’ll do my best.”
The Red Wings know they must keep their emotions in check against a Bruins’ team that’s thought to be a more physical bunch, and one that likes to use intimidating tactics such as engaging in scrums after the whistle. The Wings are aware of the Bruins approach and plan to deal with it in their own way, Franzen said.
“Yeah, we talked about that and we’re going to try to stay out of it,” he said. “We don’t need to get into any of that and, like you said, they want that, so if we can stay away from it it’s going to frustrate them a little bit.”
Other than forward Brad Marchand and defenseman Torey Krug – both are 5-foot-9 – the rest of the Bruins’ lineup is over 6-foot tall, including forwards Milan Lucic (6-4) and Carl Soderberg (6-3), and defensemen Zdeno Chara (6-9) and Dougie Hamilton (6-5).
But the Bruins’ size and strength isn’t keeping Red Wings coach Mike Babcock up late at night this week.
“They’re a big team and they want to be as physical and heavy as much as they can be. When you’re a quick team you want to get on them,” Babcock said. “I think we’re actually a harder team than we’ve ever been since I’ve been here. I think we have the ability to play heavy. We have some smaller-type players that have the ability to be physical. What sets them aside from anyone else is Lucic and Chara. They have them, we don’t. We have a lot of big bodies as well.”
The Red Wings do have bigger players, like Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, David Legwand and Franzen, who knows that he has to contribute in every way possible to help the cause against the Bruins, but has one goal on 52 shots in his past 18 games.
“Thanks for reminding, man,” said Franzen, who averaged 2.89 shots per game in his last 18 regular-season games. “It’s not why I go out and play games to score goals. I’ve got a lot of things to do before that. It’s not even fifth on the list, probably, when you go out to a game. So, playing really good down the stretch, I think, and not getting goals or many points, but easily could have been 10 more points in the last 15 games or something like that but it was just not happening. I think we played really well and I was happy with my game.”
Prior to his concussion earlier this season – which forced him to miss 22 games – Franzen produced 13 goals and 16 assists. His reputation as a playoff performer, which Babcock touched on last week, is becoming a myth. He has just seven goals and 10 points in 27 playoff games over the past three seasons. He had 31 goals and 59 points in 51 playoff games spanning the previous three years.
“I think it's the Mule's time of year,” Babcock said. “We need him to really dig in and get to the next level for us and just continue to shoot the puck and play with grit and determination, be on the puck. He's got to be one of our best players if we're going to have success. He knows that. He's getting himself ready.”