5-09-08 -- Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom stand in front of the net, distracting goaltenders and tipping pucks past them as well as any NHL player.
The Dallas Stars plan on helping Marty Turco by getting the pair of Detroit Red Wings out of the way Saturday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.
The problem is, teams have been trying to do that with Franzen for two months and Holmstrom for three years since the league made it tougher to clear out such powerful pests.
Franzen has scored an NHL-high 27 times since March 2, a 27-game roll that includes a league-high and franchise-record 12 goals in the postseason.
Holmstrom averaged about 15 goals in the six seasons leading up to the locked out 2004-05 season, and would’ve likely doubled that production for a third straight year had injuries not sidelined him for much of the season.
The players known as Mule and Homer both redirected shots into the net, helping Detroit beat Dallas 4-1 in the Western Conference finals opener.
“Our goaltender has to battle harder to get us space,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said after Friday’s practice. “Obviously, if they’re going to be allowed to stand in the paint, then we have to battle harder to push them out.
“Simple as that.”
Easier said than done, coach.
Franzen is 6-foot-3 without skates and 220 pounds. Holmstrom is 6-foot and weighs 203.
When on the ice, they’re easy to find standing in front of the net.
“Other teams might have a guy that does that, and we’ve got two. Even Dan Cleary had a lot of success playing the same role in the regular season,” Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios said.
Holmstrom is the established pro, playing in his 11th season and filling a role few want because of the abuse teams dish out.
“I’ve never seen anybody who can do what he does as far as getting to the net with a knack for getting position,” said the 46-year-old Chelios, who has played in an NHL-record 256 playoff games. “(Dino) Ciccarelli was a pain like that and Rick Vaive comes to mind, but it was a different game back then.”
Ciccarelli played from 1980-99 and Vaive began his career a year earlier and ended it in 1992.
That was well before the post-lockout rules that made life a little easier for Holmstrom, who can’t get roughed up without the puck as much as in the past.
“It’s been different for sure,” Holmstrom said. “Before, I would get cross-checked in the neck.”
Dallas defenseman Mattias Norstrom said he can’t battle or wrestle his fellow Swedes, adding there are ways to get the job done against Franzen and Holmstrom.
“You try to get in front of them and turn away that shot instead of focusing on moving the guy,” Norstrom said. “From Marty’s standpoint, if we’re standing there battling, now they have two guys instead of one in front of them. Not a good situation.”
Tippett lobbied after Game 1 for some help from the officials, who allowed Holmstrom to score the third goal with both skates seemingly in the crease.
“We were told that if there’s going to be a player in the blue paint that would be no goal,” Tippett said. “Obviously that didn’t happen.”
Holmstrom has been standing in front of goalies and deflecting shots since he was a kid in Sweden, while Franzen said it became part of his game as an NHL rookie two years ago.
“I try to copy Homer as much as I can,” he said. “And so far, so good.”
Holmstrom laughed when what Franzen said was relayed by a reporter.
“I should copy him now,” he joked.
Holmstrom didn’t invent the tactic, but he has all but perfected parking in front of the crease.
“He tripods it,” Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He plants and uses his stick as the end of the tripod. Then, it’s hard to move him.”
“He lives in the hard areas, and he’s a competitive guy who’s willing to pay the price to score goals. The unique thing for him is, he goes to the net and gets his stick on every puck.”
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller contributed to this report.