Back in the days when not all television programs were broadcast in “living color”, and before remote controls were grafted onto the hands of 90% of the male population in this country, there was a TV show called Francis The Talking Mule. You can probably guess by the title that it wasn’t exactly an Emmy Award candidate. But it had a cult following.
The Red Wings have Franzen The Scoring Mule. And he may not be an award winner, either, unless you count the Conn Smythe Trophy that he may pick up in about a month from now.
I’m right so rarely, it seems, when it comes to soothsaying, so allow me to indulge myself and remind you all that before the playoffs began, Johan Franzen was depicted in this space as being one of the Red Wing players (Henrik Zetterberg being the other) whose prowess would be needed the most in the post-season. I don’t blame you for not believing me, so you can read it for yourself HERE.
Franzen, aka The Mule, has been kicking the Colorado Avalanche in the lower body area ever since this conference semi-final series began. He did it to them again last night in Game 3, scoring the go-ahead goal some 58 seconds after Pavel Datsyuk tied the game at 1-1. This after Franzen roughed up the Nashville Predators in Round 1. He has a mind-boggling eight goals in the playoffs. He has Smythe (given to the MVP of the playoffs) written all over him.
No team, so far, has had an answer for Franzen, who’s Tomas Holmstrom with hands. He’s a player built for post-season hockey. He reminds me of the great Tim Kerr, or Cam Neely. Power forwards who pitched camp in front of the net and ate the other team’s picnic basket.
Goalie Chris Osgood won’t win the Smythe, but he’s playing like he’s on a mission, which of course he is. He’s ten years removed from his last Stanley Cup, and if you think it wouldn’t be sweeter for him this time around — having begun the regular season and the playoffs as the backup only to emerge as the go-to guy in goal — then you’re delusional. He’s 35 now, and would be a remarkable story if the Red Wings pick up nine more wins. He’s supremely confident, and watching him in post-game interviews, I can’t help but notice that he’s extremely focused. He made an outstanding stop late in last night’s win, stoning David Jones after the Avs forward used his speed to split the Red Wings defense. And Osgood made the stop look so easy, just as he’s made all his stops look.
Speaking of missions, the one in Denver was simple for the Wings: place skate on throat and press firmly. Deny the Avs any of that thin, mile-high air. Erase any thoughts of momentum and getting back into the series. Come home 3-1, if not with brooms in hand. Mission accomplished. The Avs are done like dinner — injured, deflated, and helpless. They’re a parody of a horror movie villain, like in one of those Scary Movie deals. They may wear the Colorado Avalanche cloak, but they’re to be laughed at and pitied, not feared.
What a way to end a rivalry, eh?