DENVER – Johan Franzen keeps pushing aside Gordie Howe’s records.
In March, his six game-winning goals bested the franchise record of five established by Howe in 1952, and on Thursday night, he scored three goals in the Detroit Red Wings’ series-clinching 8-2 rout of the Colorado Avalanche, giving him nine in the four-game sweep.
So what did he think of again besting Howe, the Hall of Famer who set the franchise record of eight goals in one series (seven games) in 1949?
“I didn’t follow the game back then,” cracked Franzen.
“He’s been great. He’s a big, big man with lots of skill. We’re lucky to have him,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We feel good about that. I’m not taking anything away from what we did, but their team was depleted by the end here.
“He’s been big now for a long time. He broke Gordie’s record in March, and then he broke his record here today. So good for him. If you’re going to break records, you might as well break Gordie Howe’s.”
Franzen outscored Colorado himself Thursday night with his second hat trick in three games fuelling the rout that completed the sweep of the injury-riddled Avalanche.
Franzen’s nine goals in the series matched Colorado’s total. He is the first player with two hat tricks in one series since Jari Kurri did it for Edmonton against Chicago in 1985.
In his first taste of the bitter Detroit-Colorado rivalry, Franzen was simply too dominant to experience the bad blood that usually boils this time of year between the teams.
The “Mule” scored on a breakaway in the first period and added a short-handed backhander and a redirection into the net in the second, when the Red Wings scored four times to take a 7-1 lead.
“I got really lucky,” Franzen said. “I think they gave up after 4-1, so I got a couple of freebies.”
The Red Wings advance to the Western Conference finals against the winner of the Dallas-San Jose series which the Stars lead 3-1.
Franzen needed just 10 playoff games to score 11 goals and break the Red Wings’ record for most goals in one post-season, which was held by three players, including Brett Hull, who needed 23 games to do it in 2002.
“I don’t expect to score that much the rest of the playoffs,” Franzen said. “I only hope I can contribute something offensively.”
The 28-year-old Swede, who scored 27 goals during the season, had a hat trick in Game 2. He is the second Red Wing to post two hat tricks in one playoff series, joining Norm Ullman, who did it against Chicago in 1964.
Thanks to Franzen, this series never was very close or contentious, unlike the other five times the teams met in the post-season, after which the winner went on to win the Stanley Cup three times.
None of those series was this one-sided, on the ice or in the trainer’s room.
Detroit Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios was a scratch Thursday because of a lower body injury, but it hardly mattered against a depleted Colorado team that was missing five key players: centre Peter Forsberg (groin, ankle), leading scorer Paul Stastny (knee) and forwards Ryan Smyth (foot), Wojtek Wolski (ribs) and Marek Savtos (knee).
“I mean come on, that’s not fair,” Babcock said. “I’ve seen injuries in the playoffs, but I’ve never seen that many injuries.”
“It was very unusual,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “Everybody deals with them over the course of the playoffs and seasons. But we had an abnormal share.”
Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom scored on 2-on-1 breaks in the final 86 seconds of the first period to send the Red Wings into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.
“That’s a real kick in the teeth,” Colorado forward Andrew Brunette said. “We didn’t respond well, 4-1 against these guys you start trying to cheat and trying to score goals to get back in and it’s 6, 7-1. To get out of that first period 1-1 would have been a pretty big accomplishment.”
Those two quick scores prompted Quenneville to replace goaltender Jose Theodore, who allowed three goals on 15 shots, with Peter Budaj.
Budaj stopped 19 of 20 shots in the first two games in Detroit when Theodore, stricken with the flu, allowed eight goals in less than four periods. Theodore ended up allowing 15 goals on 86 shots in this series.
Budaj wasn’t the stopper he was in Detroit, however, allowing five goals on 25 shots, including Henrik Zetterberg’s two scores, first on the power play 2:15 into the second period and again 3 1/2 minutes later.
Franzen then added a short-handed goal and his redirection of Lidstrom’s shot made it 7-1.
After Mikael Samuelsson’s first of two goals gave Detroit a 1-0 lead, the Avs tied it on their very first shot when Joe Sakic assisted Tyler Arnason, who sent the puck over Chris Osgood’s right shoulder.
Osgood stopped the next 22 shots he faced before John-Michael Liles put one past him during a 5-on-3 advantage.
“I won’t apologize for beating them like this,” Zetterberg said. “I know they’ll came back at us next year.”
But with whom?
Sakic, who missed 38 games at age 38 with a hernia this season, has said he’ll wait until the summer to decide if he’ll return for a 20th NHL season.
Forsberg, 34, said after the game that an MRI on Wednesday revealed tears in both groins. He ended up playing 16 games, including seven in the playoffs, after rejoining the Avs at the trade deadline with the understanding he’d play when his chronically bad ankle allowed.
Forsberg said he wants to return to Colorado next season – health permitting. Otherwise, retirement beckons.
“Just too many injuries,” Forsberg said. “If it doesn’t get solved, that would be it, but we’ll see what happens.”
Notes: The Red Wings also swept the season series from Colorado and finished 8-0 vs. the Avalanche. … Sakic’s two assists gave him 188 career post-season points, tying Doug Gilmour for seventh place all-time.