All is not well in Hockeytown
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.