Originally written October 21, 2011 on Fox Sports Detroit:
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DETROIT -- To paraphrase the old saying, reports of the demise of the Red Wings' power play were greatly exaggerated. True, starting the season 0-18 with the man advantage was not what they had in mind, but as coach Mike Babcock said after the game, it was "just a matter of time." Division rival Columbus obliged the Wings by putting them on the power play four times and the Wings cashed in on three of those to take a 5-2 victory Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings improved to 5-0, their best start since 1972-73, when they started 6-0. Conversely, the Blue Jackets remained winless at 0-6-1. Of course, Babcock found areas where the Wings need to improve. "I don't think it was close to being one of our better games," Babcock said. "We weren't as good with the puck as we normally are. We knew after some time off we'd be a little bit rusty but I thought Columbus gave us some trouble." Johan Franzen, who had the Wings' only power-play goal this season in overtime at Minnesota six days ago, had the first two power-play goals, staking the Wings to a 2-0 lead. "Good to get a couple on the power play," said Franzen, who was playing in his 400th career game. "We needed that for sure. We've been struggling a little bit. A little breathing room." Captain Nicklas Lidstrom scored the other from the slot, right after the Wings' 5-on-3 chance expired, at 7:46 of the third, which restored the team's two-goal lead. The Wings have traditionally had an excellent power play. Last season they were fifth at 22.26 percent. In 2009-10 they were ninth at 19.22 percent. They ranked first in 2008-09 at 25.5 percent and in 2005-06 at 22.12 percent. Aside from the 2006-07 season when they were only 21st at 17.09 percent, they've always been among the league's best. But they came into Friday night ranked 29th out of 30 teams on the power play. Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who made 32 saves and improved to 4-0, gets to watch his team's power play at ice level. He enjoyed what he saw from his end of the rink. "We weren't trying to be fancy at all, we were just putting the puck on net and retrieving it and slamming it right back down their throats," Howard said. "Whenever you can just keep it simple and you fire the puck, good things happen out there." New assistant coach Jeff Blashill has been working with the Wings on the power play, which led to Franzen joking about that after the first intermission. "Blash has been all over us so, he said his job was depending on it so we had to get some goals here," Franzen said. Franzen was not done, though. After the game, the kidding continued. "He's responsible for the PP when we do bad," Franzen said. "When we do good, it's the players. We work on it a lot, we talk a lot. But it's the same old, same old -- get the pucks to the net and look for second chances, create traffic." Franzen and linemates Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler were creating a lot of traffic in front of Columbus goaltender Steve Mason. "I think him, Filppula and Hudler have been excellent for us," Babcock said. "You gotta give them a lot of credit. Really, when you look at Pav (Datsyuk) and Z (Henrik Zetterberg) and Clears (Danny Cleary), they've played real well but they haven't broke out like they're going to. "It's good when you have other guys picking your team up so you win that way. Even tonight with all the power play goals, Mule's group got two of them. Normally, Pav and Z and those guys would be carrying us in that area. I think that's a sign of good things to come. We've got good depth on our team up front and that's a positive thing." Franzen finished with two goals and an assist and Filppula had a goal (empty-netter) and three assists (on each power-play goal). "It feels good," Filppula said. "One-point night feels good so a four-point night, you don't get those too often, especially me so gotta enjoy this one." Caps up next The Wings don't have very long to enjoy it as they head to the road to play the 6-0 Washington Capitals Saturday night. "It's going to be a tough game," Filppula said. "They've been playing really well. I haven't seen them play too much and we haven't faced them in other years that much but it's going to be a tough game. Hopefully we can keep our record like this." Lidstrom's 1,500th When Lidstrom skates against the Capitals, it will be his 1,500th career game. Brad Stuart played in his 800th game Friday night.
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