– The Red Wings’ postseason fate could rest on one man — or rather, one Mule. Forward Johan Franzen
has been a critical component for Detroit’s playoff success in the last couple of years, leading the team in points (18) in the 2010 postseason and goals (12) the year before that.
But despite being the Wings’ top goal-scorer during the regular-season – he led the team with 28 – Franzen is coming into the playoffs cold, tallying only two goals since Feb. 2, the day of his five-goal explosion at Ottawa.
When asked if he thought that his five-goal game would be a catalyst for a high-scoring season, Franzen replied, “No, probably the opposite.”
“It’s just one of those games where everything comes to you,” he said. “I didn’t read anything into that game. Just a lucky game.”
Luck or not, there’s no doubt Franzen’s goal-scoring ability is crucial to the Wings’ chance at a deep run into the playoffs this spring. Fortunately, Franzen has a history of stepping up his game when the spring rolls around and the playoffs usher in a new intensity.
Three years ago, Franzen set a franchise playoff record when he scored nine goals in a four-game sweep of the Colorado Avalanche, breaking legendary Gordie Howe’s mark of seven goals scored in a single playoff series 59 years earlier.
“The whole team is stepping it up and taking it to the next level,” said Franzen, who has 69 points in 75 career playoff games. “The games are tighter and it’s intense out there. I thrive on that, and I think the team does as well. We play better, and I play better.”
But the goals won’t come if Franzen doesn’t have the confidence to shoot. Fortunately, the playoffs are perfectly suited to inspire more shots from the Mule.
“I think you start shooting more in the playoffs,” Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom
said. “Maybe he hasn’t been shooting all the pucks, holding onto them for too long. He’s got a great shot so maybe he’s got to get in playoff mode and he’ll start shooting more.”
The relative cold streak for Franzen doesn’t seem to faze him. He said he doesn’t worry about scoring less than he is probably used to. And maybe he shouldn’t. If Franzen can just play his game, the goals will come. Holmstrom summed it up nicely:
“If you’re a goal-scorer, you’re going to score goals.”
Detroit fans will be hoping it’s that easy. Their team’s playoff chances could depend on it.