DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock moved Johan Franzen to center on April 5 in Colorado to engage his power forward more.
The move lasted all of two games, but it seems to have done the trick.
Franzen has scored half of his season total in goals over these last seven games to help keep the Wings in playoff contention down the stretch.
“He’s been unbelievable,” forward Patrick Eaves said. “You can’t get the puck off him when he’s playing like this. We really need that. I’m glad he’s on our side and hopefully he continues this into May and June … and July.”
Franzen has 14 goals on the year in 40 games, which ranks second on the team. He also has 17 assists.
To help keep the engagement going, Babcock has had Franzen killing penalties now as well after Drew Miller suffered a broken hand in Vancouver last Saturday.
“He’s very engaged,” Babcock said. “I don’t know if that’s because he’s penalty killing now and playing more. He’s not sitting on the bench (as much), he’s a big man. Sometimes when you’re not penalty killing you’re sitting there. You (don’t) kill penalties, you sit there and watch and as a big man, I don’t know if that’s part of it. But he’s always engaged this time of year. He’s important for us, a huge man with great hands. He’s become a leader on this team. I think he’s really emerged that way this year.”
Franzen has been known to score in bunches.
It’s what happens when he’s not scoring that’s been the problem over this career. He tends to have long stretches where he’s quite ineffective on the ice and has little impact on the game.
“He’s a great player, big, strong and quick on his feet,” said forward Valtteri Filppula, who centers the Wings’ second line with Franzen and Daniel Cleary. “Plus, he’s got a good set of hands. He’s been important for us, scoring some key goals down the stretch and everybody knows how he plays in the playoffs, so it’s a good start that he’s playing well right now.”
In 88 career playoff games, Franzen has 38 goals and 35 assists.
“We need to win here down the stretch so it’s all about playing the way we do,” Franzen said after Thursday’s 5-2 win over Nashville. “We get pucks to the net and we get traffic. We really haven’t been doing that here. We’ve been trying to make the fancy plays on the outside and hoping for an open net somewhere. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to play like this and that’s when you start scoring.”