Legwand's line outstanding in win over Devils
MAR 07, 2014 10:11p ET
DETROIT -- Everyone knows what Johan Franzen is capable of when he gets going.
But if he can bring his linemates along with him, the Red Wings have a chance to extend their playoff streak to 23 straight seasons.
Franzen showed everything he has in his bag of tricks in Friday night's 7-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Franzen dropped a slick pass to Brendan Smith for the Wings' first goal, went to the net to tip Gustav Nyquist's shot for their second goal, tied the game on his power-play goal with a flip shot over New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider and assisted on David Legwand's goal, Legwand's first as a Wing.
Legwand had a goal and two assists and Nyquist had a goal and three assists, giving the top line 11 points in the game.
“Legwand's line was outstanding with Gus and Mule, really set the tone for us”
"Legwand's line was outstanding with Gus and Mule, really set the tone for us," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We need that against (Travis) Zajac's line with (Jaromir) Jagr on him. I thought those guys did a great job for us. We were calm on the bench, did a real good job."
When Franzen returned Jan. 26 against Florida after missing 16 games because of a concussion, he wasn't ready.
With the six games before the Olympic break and then the break, it appears Franzen is feeling better.
In the five games since the break, Franzen has six goals and five assists.
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson has played against Franzen and with him and he knew how Schneider felt.
"He's got a quick release, kind of a different shot, I would say," Gustavsson said. "Not the typical wrister. It's a weird release. It's tough to explain. He's a smart player. I feel like he's one of those guys that he's a split-second ahead of everyone else when it comes to shooting the puck.
"He's an elite player," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "You don't hear too much about him around the league because of the other guys they have. But with their big guys out of the lineup, he's a force."
The Wings acquired Legwand, a Grosse Pointe, Mich., native, to serve as the No. 1 center between Franzen and Nyquist.
So far, so good, despite not having any time to practice together as a unit.
"They play a give-and-go game, it's something you know it's good," Legwand said. "I played it before and it's nice. Obviously Gus is a player that likes to skate and move his feet and Mule's a huge body that can shoot the puck and he's going to get in front of the net so they did a great job and we got pucks to the net."
Nyquist is on a special roll of his own.
At the beginning of the new year, Nyquist went five games without a point. Since then, he has 11 goals and 11 assists in 16 games.
"I thought Nyquist was outstanding, flying out there and making lots of plays," Babcock said. "He's got a real good hockey sense. He seems to score more, he used to pass it all the time. As he continues to shoot more, he's going to score more."
Gustavsson said Nyquist is also a smart player, but in a different way than Franzen.
"He scores a few on me in practice and that bugs me," Gustavsson said. "He's obviously a good player. He's a hard worker and he finds the areas to go, finds the dirty areas. It feels like he knows where the puck's gonna end up and there he is, puts the rebound in or whatever it is.
"He works hard and finds space for himself and makes him available for good opportunities to score."
Babcock said once the veteran Legwand gets acclimated, he'll be even better.
That's exactly what the Wings need to make the playoffs with Zetterberg and Datsyuk out, for Legwand's line to keep producing.
"Obviously that's the No. 1 goal," Legwand said. "That's something that's been around here. It's a tradition around here. It's not acceptable not to be in the playoffs. We understand that as group and the 20 guys understand that and it's our job to go out there every night and get points and win hockey games."