By Sarah Kwak, SI.com
They call him the Mule -- a compliment to his work ethic and not a swipe to a hee-haw laugh or a curious odor. And Saturday afternoon, Johan Franzen carried Detroit on his back, scoring his first playoff hat trick, in a 5-1 win over Colorado. The Red Wings, now with a commanding 2-0 lead in the series as it heads to Denver, have to avoid allowing what happened in the first round against Nashville to happen again.
"We've got to look at it like it's 0-0," said Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, who is 4-0 so far this postseason after coming in to relieve Dominik Hasek late in the first round.
The Red Wings saw what could happen if they rest on their laurels against a potentially dangerous team like the Avs -- though you probably couldn't tell from how they've been playing lately. Without center Peter Forsberg, who is still day-to-day with a groin problem, Colorado looks like a herd without its shepherd. For the Avalanche to get back into this series, they'll need somebody to step up and take away the control of the pace of the game from Detroit. But that won't be an easy task, considering Detroit has Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, both nominated for the Frank Selke Trophy. Not only is their top line a lethal offensive weapon, they don't skimp in their own zone either. Datsyuk leads the team with a plus-41 rating; Norris Trophy candidate (and five-time winner) Nicklas Lidstrom is plus-40, and Zetterberg is plus-30.
But what might be the real killer for any team that faces such a deep team like the Red Wings is overlooking the Franzens, the Jiri Hudlers, the Valtteri Filppulas, guys who give you consistency, a good 30 to 40 points for the season but have the potential to contribute much more. Forget about them, and they'll make you pay. The Mule, who had 38 points in 72 games this season, career highs for the third-year veteran, now leads the Red Wings with seven goals and 10 points in eight games this postseason. It's time for Colorado to wake up and smell the Mule.