Marc-Andre Fleury and now Chris Osgood's understudy, Detroit Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin is no stranger to clutch performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.PITTSBURGH -- One season removed as backup to
Conklin admits he would have been surprised if Fleury didn't come up as big as he did in Games 3 and 4 to even this year's Stanley Cup Final at two wins each. He's also steadfast in his belief that Osgood is a Hall of Fame goalie.
"'Flower' (Fleury) is still young and I feel he's played pretty well this entire series, so I don't feel he's an underappreciated goalie, but I do think that's the case with Ozzie," Conklin told NHL.com. "Frankly, I don't know what he has to do for people to start giving him his due. All the guy does is win big playoff games. Isn't that the whole point of sports -- winning? The guy has Hall of Fame numbers, and I know he's played on good teams, but most Hall of Fame goalies have played on good teams."
Conklin admits there is a distinct difference in personalities between Fleury and Osgood, but he isn't so sure one holds an advantage over the other on the ice.
"Ozzie is more laid back than Flower," Conklin said. "Flower's a great kid, but he's not laid-back. They're successful in different ways, and I think that proves that you don't have to have one type of personality to be good in net. The thing is, you have two good goalies playing well and going against one another and sometimes a bounce is all that separates them."
Truth be told, Conklin isn't too shabby himself. He's the only NHL player to have participated in all three of the League's regular-season outdoor games -- at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium as a member of the Oilers in 2003, at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium with the Penguins in 2008 and Chicago's Wrigley Field with the Wings this year. In many ways, Conklin can be considered a bit under the radar when it comes to top-notch goaltending in pressure situations.
"He's one of those guys who is underrated," Osgood said. "He played great during the regular season and helped me out a ton. He's been there for me this entire playoffs as well."
When Osgood struggled to find his groove and was given a four-game break in February, Conklin came though when the Wings needed him most -- winning seven of eight starts from Feb. 7 through March 4 to eventually establish a career-high with 25 victories this season. He even blanked the Penguins 3-0 on Feb. 8, making 25 saves at Mellon Arena.
But make no mistake: Conklin understands his role as backup -- which is why he's considered the consummate teammate.
"When we struggled the first half of the season, he picked me up and was the guy that carried us for a while," Osgood said. "If he wouldn't have been playing well, it would have been worse than it really was."
Establishing a good rapport with the other goalie is something Conklin has never had trouble doing -- whether it was Dwayne Roloson in Edmonton, Fleury in Pittsburgh or Osgood.
"The biggest thing is making a concerted effort to get along and that's a piece of cake with a guy like Ozzie," Conklin said. "We talk to each other about situations on the ice. Our styles aren't much different, and we're pretty similar in how we approach situations. We'll compare and discuss how we reacted to things and that's how you support each other. If I don't play well, he's the first guy to pat me on the back and say, 'Hey, play harder next time.'"
Conklin's approach and strong play are reasons Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland signed him to a one-year contract last July.
"If you don't win enough games in the regular season, you don't even qualify for the playoffs, and Ty was able to take that pressure off Chris Osgood," Holland told NHL.com. "He's a backup in the playoffs, but over the course of the regular season, Osgood and Conklin were probably 1A and 1B on our depth chart. Our organization has always had complete confidence in Ozzie, but after watching Ty Conklin for a full season, we're confident he can also get the job done in net as well."
Even though Conklin enjoyed his time last season with Pittsburgh, he's now in Detroit and is hopeful he'll have an opportunity to raise the Stanley Cup for the first time in three Final appearances.
"Any time you have an opportunity to be playing in June, it's exciting and even though it's been three support roles in three Cup Finals, it's been fun -- it never gets old," Conklin said. "I want us to win bad -- and, to be honest, if it's at their expense, so be it. I got a lot of respect for the guys in that (Pittsburgh) locker room, playing with them last year, but I'm on Detroit now and I want us to win."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.