Zetterberg Down; Wings Out?

I’ve been refraining from posting on this because thinking about it makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry, but Henrik Zetterberg will likely be missing some of the Wings’ first round series this year. Zetterberg is the Wings leading scorer this year with 80 points in 80 games, but even more painful is the fact that he is a former Conn Smythe winner and has accummulated 87 points in his last 85 playoff games. He is one of the players that defines stepping it up in the post season.

Combine his loss with the Wings being 6-6-5 since the beginning of March and that they’ll be playing a team that has essentially been in playoff mode for the last month, and I have to say that I don’t like the Wings’ chances.

But this situation is exactly what GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock have built this team for. Although they  have barely had a chance to show it in full force this year, the Wings’ forward group is one of the deepest in the league and they will need every ounce of that depth to succeed without Zetterberg.

Justin Abdelkader should see his role increase in a big way with Hank out on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen. Abdelkader broke onto the Wings scene in a big way, scoring two goals in the opening two games of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final after only playing four regular season games for the team. The key to this line (and to the final two games of the year) is Johan Franzen getting back in the scoring column. Much was made about his five goal performance against Ottawa on February 2; that simply showed the ability that he has when he puts it all together. In the 25 games since then, he only has two goals. But Franzen is widely known as a playoff monster; he has 31 goals and 28 assists in his last 51 playoff games. Those are huge numbers for a player who has yet to crack the 60 point barrier in the regular season.

The top line SHOULD be Jiri Hudler, Pavel Dastyuk and Dan Cleary. Looking at the whole picture, Jiri Hudler’s season has been beyond disappointing based on the expectations the Wings had for the returning Czech. But take away the first 30 games, where Hudler only had six points, and his stat line turns into 30 points in his last 41 games. All of that while playing well under 15 minutes on most nights.

This will leave the opportunity for the Wings to have the fantastic third line of Modano, Filppula and Holmstrom, which has shown a great mix of speed and grit (just as long as Homer doesn’t carry the puck). Filppula has always shown that he can produce when given the chance; unfortunately that chance usually comes when either Zetterberg or Datsyuk are out of the lineup. In the 25 games that Datsyuk has missed this season, Filppula has 7 goals and 12 assists. Considering he only has 16 goals and 22 assists on the year, that is a pretty big improvement. He had 4 goals and 5 assists during Detroit’s 12 game playoff run last year.

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