BOSTON — The Detroit Red Wings won’t beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs if veteran forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen fail to score goals and create chances.
The first-round series is tied 1-1 after the Bruins earned an impressive 4-1 victory Sunday afternoon in Boston, and for Detroit to take control of the series on home ice at Joe Louis Arena, Alfredsson and Franzen have to play better offensively.
Going back to the regular season, Alfredsson has one goal in his last 13 games. Franzen has one goal in his last 20 games. That level of scoring production isn’t good enough for two skilled top-six forwards with a combined 225 playoff games of experience.
They have combined for just three shots on goal, zero goals scored and one assist in two games against the Bruins. When Alfredsson and Franzen are on the ice, Detroit is averaging 3.0 percent and 8.3 percent fewer shots, respectively, than the opponent.
“We didn’t set up in their end. Our breakouts, I think they read them too easily and they did a good job in the neutral zone,” Alfredsson said after Game 2. “Seems like we got hesitant and we weren’t as assertive as we normally are, and I think that’s been one of our strong suits is setting up in the other team’s end. We are going to have to do a much better job of that because that’s probably the difference today, the special teams.”
Special teams was a huge factor in Game 2, as the Bruins went 2-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Boston had the best even-strength goal differential in the NHL this season, which is why Detroit must excel capitalize on its power-play chances.
Franzen and Alfredsson are averaging 2:59 of power-play ice time per game in this series, but neither player has registered a shot on goal or a point with the extra man. They aren’t using their play-making skills and high hockey IQ to create scoring chances.
“We didn’t execute, and then on the power play, I thought their penalty kill forecheck was good,” Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. “On special teams, they won the faceoffs, so they cleared it down. Their penalty-kill forecheck was good, our power-play breakout failed to execute, so we got no zone time. It was like an exercise in skating up and down the rink.
“We weren’t very good on special teams, anyway you look at it. They won the special teams battles.”
With top-line center Henrik Zetterberg out of the lineup because of a back injury, Detroit needs its other veterans to take on a bigger offensive role. Asking young players with little or no playoff experience such as Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Jurco to score goals and out-shoot a Bruins team that dominates defensively is unfair.
Veteran center Pavel Datsyuk stepped up in series opener and scored the game-winning goal. He’s been Detroit’s best player through two games, but he can’t carry the offense by himself.
Alfredsson and Franzen must improve for the Red Wings to score goals and overcome their special teams struggles. If they fail to generate more offense, Boston likely will win its 12th consecutive Game 3.