Osgood is oh so good

Goaltender lifts Red Wings through playoffs with 1.45 goals-against average

Stanley Cup Finals

June 03, 2008

DETRIOT — Game 5 ended too late to be included in this edition. Go to www.baltimoresun.com for coverage.

DETROIT --Plan B has worked out pretty well for the Detroit Red Wings.

The NHL's top-seeded team planned to put Dominik Hasek in goal during the playoffs and keep him there.

"Dom is not going to struggle," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the day before the postseason started, attempting to shoot down a question about the possibility of playing Chris Osgood.

But when Hasek struggled against the Nashville Predators, Babcock benched the six-time Vezina Trophy winner in favor of Osgood during Game 4 of the first round.

So far, so good.

Osgood was 13-3 with three shutouts and a 1.45 goals-against average going into last night's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Osgood insisted he wasn't thinking about the ramifications.

"Sounds boring, but that's the way I've approached it all playoffs," Osgood said after one of his best performances lifted Detroit to a 2-1 victory Saturday night at Pittsburgh and a 3-1 series lead. "It's fun for me when the game starts. That's my most enjoyable time of the entire playoffs, when I get out there, have my mind free and just play."

Osgood had to make just 22 saves a game behind a defense led by five-time Norris Trophy-winner Nicklas Lidstrom and backchecking forwards such as Selke Trophy finalists Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

"We're not looking for him to steal games," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said Sunday. "But when it was 1-1 in Game 4, Pittsburgh had a flurry of shots at him and one point and Ozzie made the saves we needed."

The Red Wings haven't always believed in Osgood.

Detroit selected the native of Peace River, Alberta, in the third round of the 1991 draft, and after he helped the franchise reach the conference finals in 1996, he was Mike Vernon's backup the next season when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.

Osgood was the No. 1 goaltender for the 1998 Stanley Cup championship team. After being in net during early exits the next three seasons, he became expendable when Hasek was acquired going into the 2001-02 season.

The New York Islanders claimed Osgood on waivers, then traded him to the St. Louis Blues in 2003.

Osgood came back to Detroit as a free agent three years ago.

In a move that now looks brilliant, the Red Wings signed Osgood to a three-year contract extension in January: $1.7 million next season, $1.45 million in 2009-10 and $1.1 million for the 2010-11 season.

Former teammate Steve Yzerman said Osgood is a much better goalie than he was a decade ago.

"Technically, he has improved greatly, ," said Yzerman, who now works in the front office. "He stays bigger in the net, he challenges more shots and he plays angles much better."

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