Three Questions: Wings-Predators
DRW.com's Michael Caples analyzes the Wings' 58th game
Johan Franzen missed five games due to a hand injury, but it sure didn’t show Wednesday night. On his first shift, he created a turnover during Nashville’s attempted breakout, chased the puck into the corner, and nearly scored on a bank-in shot from the corner. Then, he grabbed the rebound, and took another shot that almost beat goaltender Dan Ellis. It was a preview of things to come for Franzen, who potted both two goals and assist from his favorite spot on the ice – right in front. Camping out in front of Ellis on the Wings’ first power play five minutes into the contest, Franzen redirected a point shot from Niklas Kronwall. The change in direction meant that Ellis couldn’t control the rebound, and Jiri Hudler was able to jump on the puck and fire in a backhand goal for the early lead.
Franzen confirmed that his injury was just fine in the second period, when he showed off his soft hands in the midst of traffic during the second period. On the power play again, Franzen caught a quick pass from Henrik Zetterberg right in front of the goal. He gathered in the pass, avoided a poke check from one of the players in the crowd around him, then deked Ellis to the backhand to score his 23rd goal of the season.
The Mule recorded another goal late in the third, for an added exclamation mark on his first game back. He skated for 15:26, recorded five shots on goal, and picked up one penalty.
Where does Franzen help the most?
It’s not just a coincidence that in Franzen’s first game back, the Wings tallied their season-high total in power-play goals. Detroit went 5-6 on the power play, which was the obvious reason for the 6-2 win. The Wings jumped out to an early lead because they made use of their man-advantages quickly, scoring on their first three opportunities. Franzen scored twice, captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored twice, and Zetterberg scored one to guide the Wings to the win. Franzen’s return increased the depth of the Wings’ two power-play units dramatically, and made the Nashville coaching staff struggle to pick which unit to focus on with their top penalty-killers. At least to start, coach Mike Babcock went with two dangerous power-play units. Zetterberg, Dan Cleary, and Pavel Datsyuk started with Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski at the points, and the line of Franzen, Hudler, and Hossa followed with Kronwall and Mikael Samuelsson on the points. Franzen gave the big net-front presence in front of the opposition’s goal that the Wings were missing without him.
What was the best part of the night?
It was great to see the Mule return, but Marian Hossa stole the show – and it wasn’t with his scoring abilities. The crowd at Joe Louis Arena erupted when Hossa decided to drop the gloves with defenseman Ryan Suter at center ice halfway through the final period. It all started with Hudler, who started to have discussions with Steve Sullivan after taking some shots deep in the Nashville end. Soon Franzen was in the midst of some face-washes, and Hossa let the anger boil over into his fourth career fight. By the time it was all said and done, Hossa had lost all equipment above the waist. After shaking free of Suter’s grasp, Hossa landed the majority of the punches, getting in a few quick shots. It wasn’t as long as some of Darren McCarty’s famous bouts, but it was exciting none the less. Hossa was the first to the ice, but still won the fight for landing more punches throughout the exchanges. The JLA crowd erupted once again when it was announced that Hossa had received a game-misconduct penalty and would not return.