Blogs > Red Wings Corner

Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Friday, May 16, 2008

All is not well in Hockeytown

It isn't a problem that the Detroit Red Wings have all of their offensive eggs in one basket. The problem is that there are so few eggs right now.
While one loss in the past 10 playoff games is not problematic, the development of the Red Wings' scoring is.
The team's loss in Dallas in Game 4 of the Western Conference final highlighted that the Red Wings are at this moment a one-line team. If not for Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom, there wouldn't be enough offense to sustain hockey's most talented team.
Zetterberg's goal was Detroit's lone tally in Game 4. Datsyuk had another that was waved off when it was ruled that Holmstrom's rear end was over the crease. (I couldn't make that up if I tried.)
Of the Red Wings' 12 goals in the Western Conference final, eight have been scored with their top forward line on the ice.
More importantly, of Detroit's past seven goals, six have been scored by Zetterberg or Datsyuk. And it's during that span -- three games -- that the Red Wings have been playing without Johan Franzen, who has been shelved with headaches.
Franzen had developed into a one-man secondary scoring band late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs. He scored 27 goals in a 27-game stretch. In the Red Wings' second-round elimination of Colorado, Franzen netted nine goals in four games.
With Franzen in the lineup, the Red Wings were a diversified attack, one that had two lines with which opponents needed to deal. Detroit was more than the equal of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are rolling through these playoffs with a Sidney Crosby line and a Evgeni Malkin line.
Without Franzen on the ice, however, the Red Wings are a top-heavy unit.
Dan Cleary has moved up to Franzen's spot on the second line, but he nor Valtteri Filppula nor Mikael Samuelson have scored since they've been put together three games ago.
The third line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Dallas Drake does not produce offense. The trio has two goals between them in 14 playoff games.
The fourth line of Darren Helm, Darren McCarty and Jiri Hudler nets an occasional goal, averaging about one every three games (five goals combined in 14 games).
Add it all up and the Red Wings without Franzen are a team that has 21 playoff goals from its top line and 13 goals from its other three lines combined.
During the regular season, coach Mike Babcock tried to make the Red Wings into a more diversified team, often splitting Datsyuk and Zetterberg to center their own lines. The theory was sound, but it wasn't practical. Datsyuk and Zetterberg were great apart, but not as great as they were together. The Red Wings scored more with the pair together than apart.
In other words, the problem isn't Datsyuk and Zetterberg. They're unstoppable together The Wings' top line has scored at least one goal in 12 of their 14 playoff games, including the past seven in a row.
And having two Selke Trophy finalists who are also great scorers together on the same line creates line-matchup nightmares for opponents.
The problem that the Red Wings have right now is that no other line produces goals consistently. It's a problem that's been masked lately by two things: the brilliance of the top line; and the effectiveness of a team defense that has allowed two or fewer goals in nine of 14 games.
But if Franzen isn't able to return soon (he was cleared to resume conditioning Wednesday) and if other forwards like Cleary, Samuelsson and Filppula don't start scoring … then the Red Wings' playoff run could shatter like a cracked egg.


Blogger Heaton said...

While it is discerning, it is worth noting that the team the Wings are most likely to play if they reach the finals doesn't have oodles of secondary scoring either. In fact, the Wings have better secondary scoring than the Pens even without Franzen in the lineup.

May 16, 2008 at 1:05 PM 
Blogger Alex said...

Yes, but how is Pitts secondary scoring doing?

May 16, 2008 at 2:59 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for finally writing about this topic, Bruce. I don't think enough people realize just how often this team wins with one scoring line. The problem has been there all year (and even at times last year), at least until Franzen stepped it up late. Without him as you said they are back to being a team that often needs the top line to carry them.

May 16, 2008 at 5:26 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again and as always, great post and analysis - keep'em coming!

I'm probably an idiot and an ass for saying this (as if I wasn't already) but Cleary needs to lose his jaw reinforced helmet.

Yes, I understand he puts his injury at risk again and that what he went through is unimaginably painful and difficult.

Is he going to ever in his whole professional career play a more important role than what he may in a potential Stanley Cup finals in '08? I highly doubt it.

He clearly is very restricted and inhibited in the way he is currently playing. It has been said that he can't see the puck when looking straight forward. If it wasn't for his impeccable defensive qualities and overall eye of the game he wouldn't be bringing us enough to justify being dressed. His offensive contributions on the second line have been spotty at best.

Ice hockey is a risky sport and as much as it is a cliché it is still very much the truth. Can Cleary re-injure his jaw? Yes. Can he also tear an ACL and go out for six months? Sure. It just seems very unlikely. Maybe he shouldn't be blocking shots at this point but I'm quite sure he isn't ready to do that even with that customized helmet.

Will opposing players try to run him and specifically hurt his jaw? Someone like Ruutu might (there are too many to list in Philly that would too). I am quite sure the referees would be on top of any such attempts though, considering their knowledge of Cleary's situation.

In my opinion he needs to put it all on the line should the team advance to the finals. Of course, that is easy for me to say from the comfort of being a spectator and a fan. It is just a shame to see a player with such potential squander the opportunity of his lifetime. We all know what a threat Cleary can be offensively, too.

Ok, go ahead and call me names now, I deserve it.

Know this though, Cleary could have been what Franzen has become (save a few goals - Franzen has been Herculean) had he not suffered that terrible injury.

-- Lilja4ever

May 16, 2008 at 7:38 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I respect your opinion Bruce, but if you think the wings' egg is cracked, then you're on crack. One scoring line has not only taken them this far but earned the team another president's trophy. Defense wins championships - no one can deny the Wings are top in that category.

May 16, 2008 at 11:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce never said the Wings' egg is cracked.

May 17, 2008 at 5:29 AM 
Blogger curt1286 said...

yes defense wins championships, but there comes a time when you run into a worthy adversary capable of matching up your 3rd D pair and succeeding. hopefully being at home that same scenario will be used on dallas.

So everyone clear on the crease rule? now apparently theres also a 1' buffer zone for rear ends.

May 17, 2008 at 9:26 AM 

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