Cullen: Believe it or not, Mule is an elite scorer

Scott Cullen
2/3/2011 1:14:55 PM
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Detroit Red Wings winger Johan Franzen had a five-goal performance against the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night and while five goals is an aberration for any player, Franzen's been among the best goal scorers in hockey in recent seasons, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

With 70 goals in 147 regular season games from 2008-2009 through this season, Franzen is eighth in goals per game over that span with .48 per game and the company he's keeping is elite.

Goals Per Game Since 2008-2009

No. Player Team Rating
1. Alexander Ovechkin Washington 0.62
2. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh 0.58
3. Marian Gaborik N.Y. Rangers 0.54
4. Alexander Semin Washington 0.53
5. Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay 0.53
6. Jeff Carter Philadelphia 0.49
7. Zach Parise New Jersey 0.49
8. Johan Franzen Detroit 0.48
9. Ilya Kovalchuk New Jersey 0.48
10. Patrick Marleau San Jose 0.48

Then, consider that Franzen has been even better as a playoff goal-scorer in the last three postseasons.

Playoff Goals Per Game Since 2008 (min. 10 GP)

No. Player Team Rating
1. Alexander Ovechkin Washington 0.71
2. Corey Perry Anaheim 0.63
3. R.J. Umberger Columbus 0.62
4. Johan Franzen Detroit 0.61
5. Phil Kessel Toronto 0.60
6. Michael Cammalleri Montreal 0.56
7. Eric Staal Carolina 0.56
8. Jarome Iginla Calgary 0.54
9. Henrik Zetterberg Detroit 0.54
10. Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh 0.51

What has prevented Franzen from really getting big acclaim for his goal-scoring exploits, aside from his blue-collar nickname "Mule", has been his tendency to get injured.

After playing 80 games as a rookie in 2005-2006, Franzen has not played more than 72 games in a season since and played just 27 last year after requiring knee surgery early in the season.

Healthy this season, though, Franzen has missed just one of the Red Wings' first 50 games and is on pace to easily surpass his career-high of 34 goals, set in 2008-2009. With 26 goals in 49 games, Franzen would project to 43 if he maintains this pace and plays 81 games. I'll apologize in advance if this bit of optimism results in Franzen getting hurt in his next game.

What's interesting is that Franzen had his big game skating alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi; while he's played with both at different times this season, that hasn't been a regular trio.

Franzen's most common linemates (thanks Dobber Hockey!) have been Valtteri Filppula and Bertuzzi and it's possible that line could be re-united once Pavel Datsyuk returns to action (perhaps Friday vs. Columbus?), but the Wings may just want to keep this unit together to see if they can build on their outstanding performance.

More encouraging for the Wings, is that it's also fair to expect Franzen's production to continue as he's increased his shots on goal per game, which obviously increases the chances he has to score. Since the start of January, Franzen is averaging 4.25 shots on goal per game, increasing his season average to 3.20 per game.

As a side note, I noted on my Twitter feed (@tsnscottcullen) last night, Franzen was the 11th player in the league to record at least 10 shots on goal in a game this season. Seven of those players didn't score at all.

Eric Staal managed the feat twice, scoring three goals against Anaheim December 18th and a pair of markers against the Islanders on January 26th. Patrick Sharp had 13 shots against Columbus on October 15th, scoring twice, so that would make Franzen the first player not born in Thunder Bay to score when recording at least ten shots on goal this season!

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Johan Franzen (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
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