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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.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ozzie's playoffs

DETROIT -- Chris Osgood knows his place in hockey history. But does the rest of the world?

Osgood is 10th all-time in regular-season goalie wins. Entering the Stanley Cup final, he’s eighth all-time in playoff wins and fourth in playoff shutouts. Among active goalies, only Martin Brodeur can match Osgood’s three Stanley Cup rings.

“I love this time of year,” said Osgood. “I know how to win games.”

Osgood’s reputation is a victim of being linked to the best franchise in hockey over the last 15 years. The Red Wings are good enough to win the Stanley Cup with several current goaltenders is the common argument, meaning that Osgood is along for the ride.

But the Red Wings couldn’t win the Cup with Manny Legace. They couldn’t win the Cup with Dominik Hasek last spring. They couldn’t win with Curtis Joseph before that.

"Ozzie is real mentally strong," said Nicklas Lidstrom. “If he lets in a bad goal, it doesn't seem to bother him much. (Jamie) Langenbrunner scored (in 1998) 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."

Osgood has also responded well to a poor regular season this year with a remarkable playoff run.

Last spring, Osgood was the darling who took over in net for Hasek after the Red Wings started the playoffs 2-2 and went 14-4 to win the Cup. But this winter, Osgood had his worst goals-against average and worst save percentage of his career.

Backup goalie Ty Conklin got into 40 of the 82 regular-season games.

“I live in this moment right now,” said Osgood. “The regular season is what it is. I’m still 10th all-time in wins.”

Osgood piled up 26 more regular-season wins, but did so while allowing goals at a faster rate than ever before.

“This year in the regular season he struggled,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He was much like the rest of our team. In saying that, we have enough good players that we're able to win games, but it was ugly lots of nights. When you're the last line of defense, it's ugly, it looks ugly.

“It took him a while to get going. I think it snowballed on him in the wrong direction. But I thought he really battled. I thought his last 10 games gave us a better indication of what he was capable of. Then, like a lot of our players, they've been a lot better since the playoffs started.”

Osgood’s turnaround was striking.

He gave up just two total goals in the Red Wings’ first three playoff games. His goals-against average in the playoffs of 2.06 is second to Boston’s Tim Thomas.

For those teammates who were with Osgood when he battled through earlier Cup runs, sloughing off a poor regular season isn’t surprising.

"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."

Osgood still eats pasta before games as he has for more than a decade. He still likes oatmeal the night before a game. He’s still the same goalie who had actress Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) agog as a high-schooler at Royal Oak Shrine. (“Brad Pitt be damned, he had nothing on Osgood,” she told

And he’s still the same Chris Osgood who is tough enough in the playoffs to be the goalie that his teammates want behind them.

“He knows what it takes,” said Johan Franzen. “He shows it every year. He’s always in the right position and doesn’t get rattled. We know what he can do. We have a lot of trust in him.”


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