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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Osgood shows his tough side

DETROIT -- Chris Osgood looks young walking around Joe Louis Arena, much closer to college age than mid-life.
But when Osgood puts his goalie mask over that Opie Taylor face, he takes on the appearance of a grizzled veteran.
"He's not a kid any more," said long-time teammate Kris Draper. "He's 35. He's one of the oldest goalies in the league. When he left (in 2001 through waivers), obviously, it was a tough situation for him. When he got back here … he just loves being around Detroit, loves being part of the Red Wings organization. It's no secret, he's a huge reason why we were on top of the NHL (during the regular season) again."
Chris Osgood is also a big reason why the Detroit Red Wings are back in the Stanley Cup final for the fifth time in the past 13 seasons.
Although he played the entire regular season as the second goalie to Dominik Hasek's top banana, Osgood played well enough this season to start for the Western Conference at the all-star game and lead the Red Wings in wins.
So when Hasek stumbled through four playoff games, coach Mike Babcock was able to use a quick hook and name Osgood his starter midway through the first round of the post-season.
The Red Wings won the first nine playoff games that Osgood started. Detroit is 11-2 with Osgood in net -- the last win pushing him ahead of Terry Sawchuk as the Red Wings' all-time playoff wins leader.
"For goalies, you just hit your prime when you’re my age," said Osgood. "You’ve seen everything. You know that things happen at a quick pace. You don’t panic as much. You’re more relaxed and things seem to happen easier for you."
Not panicking has been a trademark of Osgood.
During the Stanley Cup run of 1998, Osgood had a couple of bad moments that could have broken his focus. He let in a long goal in St. Louis by Al MacInnis that forced overtime. Worse than that was the goal Osgood allowed in Dallas to Jamie Langenbrunner from outside of the Detroit blue line.
Langenbrunner's goal kept the Stars alive in the Western Conference final that spring. In the next game, however, Osgood shut the Stars out to reverse their fortunes.
"Ozzie is real mentally strong," said Nicklas Lidstrom, who is in his 11th season as Osgood's teammate. "If he lets in a bad goal, it doesn't seem to bother him much. Langenbrunner scored from near the red line. Osgood came back with a shutout the next game. He's very mentally strong. We see it now and we saw it back then too. It can be tough on a goalie, especially in the playoffs. He responded well. I think the team rallied around him."
"The one thing about Ozzie is the composure that he showed, the resilience he showed during the '98 Cup run," said Draper. "He'd be the first one to tell you that he gave up a couple of bad goals. What does he do the next game? He plays his best hockey. And that's something that you can't teach. It's in you. It's the makeup of Chris Osgood."
All of which has led to this moment in time.
As the Red Wings enter the Stanley Cup final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Osgood leads the NHL in post-season goals-against average and ranks third in save percentage. More importantly, he's given his team a chance to win every game that he's started.
Osgood ranks 15th on the NHL's all-time wins list and is within striking distance of topping Sawchuk's franchise record in that category.
Osgood has refined his butterfly style somewhat although he has always been a butterfly goaltender. He has sought more coaching and he has figured out how to succeed without being the No. 1 netminder.
But the most important asset that Osgood carries into the Stanley Cup final is one that he's shown throughout his career. Resilience.
"Some players can’t do it; Other guys can," said Osgood. "That’s how you see whether guys are mentally tough, when it’s bad. When it’s easy, it’s easy to play. You just roll along, everything’s great, everybody’s smiling. But when it’s tough, that’s when you see who are the players and who aren’t. I think I’ve always been tough mentally."


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