Detroit Red Wings: Playoff Push Heroics

Jordin Tootoo (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
Jordin Tootoo looks to help propel the Red Wings to the playoffs (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Following a third straight victory, the Detroit Red Wings are making their final march into the Western Conference playoffs.

Despite not having yet clinched a playoff spot, the Red Wings are playing their best hockey of the season at the best possible time. While the Red Wings will have to wait until Saturday to see where they fall in the playoff picture, if they bring the same brand of hockey that they have been playing to American Airlines Center, a victory will naturally follow. Some advice, head over to Unibet and put a couple quid on an easy Wings win on Sat. All of Detroit’s wins during their recent home stand have seen the team score three or more goals, and key contributors are coming through at the most opportune time. The recent success can be contributed to three main causes, examined below.

1. The (Re) Emergence of Johan Franzen 

Johan Franzen was nicknamed The Mule by Steve Yzerman (JYSharky - Flickr}
Johan Franzen was nicknamed The Mule by Steve Yzerman (JYSharky – Flickr}

Long considered by Coach Mike Babcock as the “x-factor” of the Red Wings, Johan Franzen has been positively outstanding lately, scoring five goals in as many games. There is no denying the fact that when Johan Franzen is motivated and playing up to his potential, the Red Wings are a hard team to play against and beat. Franzen’s role on the team goes beyond that of just scoring goals.

Since the departure of Tomas Holmstrom, Franzen has taken over the (often ugly and painful) role of the Red Wings net-front presence on the powerplay. His 6′ 3″ frame screens the goalie while his 223 lb body moves the bodies to set up shooting chances for Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. A textbook power forward, the fire in Johan Franzen’s belly needs to stay ignited if the Red Wings are to escape Saturday’s game against a jaded Dallas team with at least a single point.

2. Secondary Scoring 

Cory Emmerton (BridgetDS/Flickr)
Cory Emmerton (BridgetDS/Flickr)

Having contributed goals in two of the three recent victories, the fourth line is working wonders in Detroit. The energy connection of Patrick Eaves-Cory Emmerton-Jordin Tootoo does more than just notch goals at opportune times.  This line creates havoc on the ice for opposing teams. Jordin Tootoo’s tenacity on the forecheck slows down zone entries and makes life much easier for the Detroit defense. Patrick Eaves has shown much more confidence with the puck lately, shooting more and creating quality scoring chances. Speedy Cory Emmerton holds it all together at center.

Last year, the Los Angeles Kings taught us about the value of having a dynamic and effective fourth line in the playoffs. This line’s steadiness will allow Coach Babcock to play a longer bench and give his top six ample rest time between shifts, creating more production all around.

3. Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard returns as the Sharks look to end the winning ways in Hockeytown (Icon SMI)
Jimmy Howard v. San Jose (Icon SMI)

Any mention Detroit’s achievements this year must place a large emphasis on the man between the pipes, Jimmy Howard. Having been freshly inked to a new long-term contract, Jimmy Howard has been a rock for the Red Wings in goal.

As one game looms in the regular season, all eyes will be on Jimmy Howard in Dallas on Saturday evening. He will be squaring off against either Richard Bachman or Kari Lehtonen. Can Howard top whichever Dallas netminder he sees?

Howard’s recent numbers tell us he will.

With Howard, the Red Wings have a goalie who they know gives them a chance to win every single night. Posting a .949 GAA over his last four games speaks volumes about the kinds of efforts Jimmy Howard has been delivering. Be it stopping breakaways or gobbling up rebounds, Howard has truly been everywhere for the Red Wings.

It’s reasonable to think that the debacle in Calgary served as a motivator for Howard. Giving up bad-bounce goals such as were the norm in that game has a way of messing with the head of even the best goalie.

No matter the motivating factor that awakened the Detroit Red Wings, the play is best summed up as inspired.

If Detroit plays another game like the last three when they visit Dallas, the playoffs are a foregone conclusion.