Franzen needs to bring the noise

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DETROIT -- Gustav Nyquist was in front of his dressing room stall and surrounded. Cameras and microphones and pens and notepads all took down his explanation as to why he hasn't been able to produce in the playoffs like he did in the run up to them.

He politely took on the questions: What is Boston doing to slow him down? What is the message from Mike Babcock? What can he do better in Game 5?

Then captain Henrik Zetterberg emerged. He walked to center of the main interview area of the Red Wings dressing room and, like moths to a light, attracted the interest of everyone in the room.

Nyquist was left alone, which Zetterberg noticed, joking that he saved him again. The young forward smiled, the questions finished, allowing him to leave in peace.

That's what a good captain like Zetterberg does. He eases the pressure on others by being the face of the team. It's why Sidney Crosby is out there time and time again, as accessible and available a superstar as there is in sports. Or any other team captain who knows that, if he talks, he's doing his teammates a service.

Usually, that's good enough. It gets the news people their soundbite. It gets the beat writers their information.

In Detroit on Friday, though, it might not have been. Fans have little interest or tolerance for media griping about who talks and who doesn't. Nor should they. They typically don't want to hear it as long as that player is putting forth the effort on the ice and producing to their expectation.

Now, with social media and team websites, there are more avenues than ever for fans to get the interaction with their favorite players that a local media outlet might have been the only one to offer in years past.

Where fans should care is when silence seeps onto the ice and, in the case of Johan Franzen, the possibility has been raised. He hasn't scored a goal in these playoffs, and a guy who used to score in bunches has just one goal since March 9. He's not a guy who wants attention, even when things are going well, but Mike Babcock is left to wonder if his silence, and declining of media requests, is building even more pressure on a player already under pressure to contribute offensively.

"I think Mule is a real good person, a real good man, real good family man, tries to be a real good teammate," Babcock said after practice on Friday. "Sometimes [he] doesn't handle probably you people as well as he should to help himself. To me, if you just step right up and just talk, makes it easy. When you don't, things build, I think it puts more pressure on yourself. I don't know why you would do that as a human being."

You don't earn the nickname the Mule by giving in too easily. And it's a reach to suggest that his lack of production is the sole reason the Bruins are up in this series 3-1.

Pavel Datsyuk is playing hurt.

Zetterberg now has played in one game since the Olympics and his conditioning isn't where it needs to be.

The Red Wings miss Jonathan Ericsson more than people realize -- Detroit controlled just 29.2 percent of the shot attempts at even strength when Brian Lashoff was on the ice in Game 4.

Detroit's D-men, often because of turnovers, are getting stuck on their own zone and worn down by the Bruins. That takes a toll.

While Detroit's system play has been spotty and erratic, the Bruins have been relentless in theirs, grinding the Red Wings down with their consistency through four games.

"Look at the way they're playing. They stuck with their game plan," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "That's been the difference so far. They've stuck to their game plan for each and every game."

The Red Wings are playing without starting goalie Jimmy Howard (flu), whom Babcock expects to back up Game 5 starter Jonas Gustavsson on Saturday, and the Red Wings coach admitted to playing veteran Daniel Alfredsson even though Alfredsson couldn't move because of a back issue. Alfredsson practiced Friday, felt good and is available for Saturday. Detroit's two youngest centers, Riley Sheahan (38.8 percent) and Luke Glendening (30.8 percent), are consistently losing in the faceoff circle.

And Boston is just the better, more experienced team, from top to bottom.

So, yeah, pinning this on Franzen isn't fair or accurate. And yet, the games have been just close enough that if he found a way to get going and scoring in bunches like he has during postseasons in the past, there might be a glimmer of hope for Detroit fans. Considering everything else going on in this series, it might be the Red Wings' only hope.

"He's got to get himself going. ... Obviously, we talk to him, try to put him in the best situation to be successful," Babcock said. "We need more out of Mule. It's simple."

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