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Three Questions: Winning Streaks, Goalies, and Johan Franzen

February 11th, 2013 at 7:47 PM
By Frank Vajcner

1. Q: Is the Detroit Red Wings' three game winning streak a sign of things to come, or just a flash in the pan?

A: First and foremost, anytime the Red Wings string together victories in a shortened season (such as they are doing now), the more likely they stay in the playoff picture. They have played 12 games already, which is one quarter of the 48 game season.

Right now, if the season ended today, the Wings would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Ideally, they would rather be seeded fourth or higher. This means that in order to reach that plateau, the Wings need to either a, keep winning and hope the Chicago Blackhawks lose in regulation multiple times, or b, get more points than the other two division champs. Either option is still realistic with 36 games left to play, and a lot can happen between now and the end of the season.

Not to rain on anyone's parade about the winning streak, but the Red Wings have not beaten an upper-echelon team from the Western Conference yet. St. Louis has struggled lately, as they have lost four straight games. Edmonton has gone from being a doormat to mediocre at best. And Los Angeles looks like they could be left out in the cold come playoff time. Granted, the only elite Western Conference team that the Red Wings have played was the Blackhawks in the first quarter

As for the second quarter of the season, the Wings will play eight of their next 12 games at home. However, they will also play eight teams currently in the playoff picture, including the three division leaders Anaheim (February 15), Vancouver (February 24), and Chicago (March 3). The good thing is that all three games will be played at Joe Louis Arena.

If the Wings can keep their newfound success going, they will stay in the playoff hunt.

2. Q: After Petr Mrazek's impressive debut, will he play again this season?

A: First, if anyone was wondering, no, the Red Wings do NOT have a goalie controversy. That thought became popular after Mrazek stopped 26 of 27 shots in a 5-1 win over the Blues, but it was quickly dispelled after Jimmy Howard stopped 23 shots in a 2-1 win against the Oilers on Saturday. Howard's very next start was him stopping 45 shots in a 3-2 win over the Kings on Sunday. The only explanation for why he did so well in both wins is that he got some much-needed rest (thanks to Mrazek).

Howard's job as the starting goaltender is nowhere close to being in jeopardy. However, it doesn't hurt to know that Detroit has someone who can step in between the pipes if Howard needs rest, gets injured, or needs to be with his family. And given the way Mrazek handled himself in his debut on the road, it's safe to day that he has earned another start. When that next start comes, nobody knows. A lot of that will depend on how soon Jonas Gustavsson returns from a groin injury. Mrazek's road to another start just got more clear after Joey MacDonald was claimed off waivers by the Flames today

3. Q: Is Johan Franzen becoming too much of a hot head?

A: At the one quarter mark of the season, if the average fan was asked, "Who leads the Red Wings in penalty minutes?" the most common answer given would probably be Jordin Tootoo. Surprisingly, that's not the case.

Franzen, not Tootoo, leads the Wings with 31 penalty minutes. And none of those 31 PIMs are a result of fighting majors. Franzen has been ejected from games twice this season (first time was for unsportsmanlike conduct, the other for spearing David Perron, which he also received a major penalty for). All in all, Franzen has racked up time in the box because he lets his emotions get the best of him.

Franzen's case is different than Tootoo's for two reasons. First, Franzen is a first line winger who is counted on to score goals every game, while Tootoo is a fourth liner expected to get into opponent's heads and to give the Wings some energy. Second, Tootoo knows how to handle himself in a fight, while Franzen is not a fighter.

More of this subject will be covered in an editorial at a later date, but in closing, Franzen needs to go back to taking his anger out on scoring goals, rather than using his stick to jab another player in the groin. Sooner or later, Franzen will get penalized for retaliating and earn another major penalty in addition to getting tossed. That could wind up costing the Red Wings a game, and worse, Franzen ends up in Brendan Shanahan's doghouse.

Tags: Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Jordin Tootoo, NHL

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