Three weeks into the season, several Detroit Red Wings players have been performing admirably. Who has been the most valuable?
Johan Franzen. Being atop the stats sheet is nothing new to Franzen. His team-leading four goals is very impressive considering he has only registered 14 shots on goal. Furthermore, he has three power play goals, while the rest of the team has two. The biggest knock to the Mule being the most valuable thus far is the fact that he leads the team (tied with Todd Bertuzzi) in penalty minutes. Considering the Wings sport the NHL’s 22nd-best penalty kill, the Wings need Franzen to stay out of the box.
Valterri Filppula. Like Franzen, Filppula is averaging a point per game. He leads the team in assists. He has just one penalty so far this season. The ability to create goals, not necessarily slam them in the back of the net, is always important to the Wings’ European puck-possession style of hockey. The mixture of leading the team in assists and staying out of the sin bin makes Filppula one of the most valuable players on the team so far.
Jimmy Howard. It’s pretty simple: Howard wins and he doesn’t lose. In four games this year, the Wings’ goalie is 4-0-0 with a shut out. He’s sixth in the league among goaltenders with at least three games played with a 1.72 goals againt average. I think it is obvious who the late Al Davis would pick.
Nicklas Lidstrom. The Wings’ captain leads the team’s defensivemen in points, leads the team in ice time, and has been great on the power play. None of this is new to anyone, in fact this level of production is expected out of one of the best to ever play his position. A knock against Lidstrom so far this year is his zero plus/minus. Typically, Lidstrom is one of the best in this area, but so far this year, he’s subpar compared to the rest of the team’s blue liners.