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Break from the season broke Osgood's funk

by Phil Coffey /
DETROITChris Osgood admits that he enjoyed his summer with Stanley in 2008.

"Enjoyed it too much," he laughed. "That's the truth. ... Physically, I did everything I needed to do. Mentally you go from playing in a great series against Pittsburgh in the Final and these games are huge. You're playing triple overtime and you lose, you go back to Pittsburgh and win Game 5 or six that's real difficult. And you come down to the last shot and the puck's on your side. You wonder 'How am I going to get up for a game on Tuesday when it's snowing against Minnesota at home in Detroit or on a Thursday?" That's something I had to work my way through."

It's known as the Stanley Cup hangover and it plagued Osgood this season. He finished the regular season with a 26-9-8 record.

So what was the problem? Coach Mike Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland saw the 3.09 goals-against average and .887 save percentage and knew that wasn't going to cut it. So they took the unprecedented step of giving Osgood an in-season "vacation," a 12-day break that ended on Feb. 27.

"Well, we were concerned because Ozzie wasn't being Ozzie," Babcock said. "Ozzie is one of the best teammates. We used to call him Zimmer a while back because of Joe Torre's bench boss there with the Yankees years ago, because he was that good. He was always there for the coaches to talk to. He was a guy who knew everything that was going on on the team. We used him as a resource.
"Well, this year in the first half he didn't talk to us," Babcock said. "That's just because he was off-kilter. But he was no different than anybody else on our team. Just the fact is when you're the last line of defense it becomes obvious to everyone that you're not playing very well, so we did a number of different things to try to get him to get his game back."

And Osgood knew it.

"By no means did I enjoy the first half of the season," Osgood said. "It was a struggle. I wasn't mentally prepared to start the year. I know that sounds bad, but that's the truth. I mean, coming off last season I didn't do the right things to be ready. And I know I'll make sure that doesn't happen again. I can guarantee you I'll not have a regular season like that again."

But he was having a regular season "like that." So Babcock and Holland made a tough decision. Ty Conklin would get the start and Jimmy Howard would be the backup. Osgood was off the ice.

"I've known Ken since I've been 14 years old," Osgood said. "I don't want to say he's a second father to me, but pretty close. And he's called me in and just told me to be me. I had to get back to being myself and what I need to do to get back. Just kind of a wake-up call, kind of.

"He told me you're going to work with (goalie coach) Jim Bedard for three days," he said. "It was on the weekend, (Holland said) 'you'll be practicing with the team again, but you're not going to play for 10 days.' Which, now that I think back, probably should have happened in November. Given the fact that we had won, I think it gave me more time to try to work my way through it. It was good. I got a good break. Got to work on some things with Jimmy and cleared my mind. It was kind of like that was my new starting point to get ready for the playoffs was that break. It was really good. I just cleared my mind, and I just 100 percent got myself ready for the playoffs.

"When the playoffs started, I knew I was ready," Osgood said. "I didn't have any doubt in my mind I had done the right things in practice and done the right things off the ice. My mind was in the right spot that I knew I was going in the right -- in a good spot."

And it has shown. Heading into Game 6 of the Final on Thursday, Osgood was 15-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

Mission accomplished.

Pittsburgh Penguins Eastern Conference Champs Gear"You know, it's no different than dealing with your kids," Babcock said. "You can talk all you want. But until they're ready to listen, until they're ready to get it going themselves it's not going to happen. Ozzie would be a great one to tell you he'll be fine, he'll be fine, he'll be fine. But as a coach, sometimes that's not enough. And as a manager, sometimes that's not enough. You've actually got to see the results.

"I thought he had about 10 games left, might have been before that, the results started to show, and he's carried on through the playoffs."

And Osgood said he has learned some valuable lessons.

"It's amazing," he said. "At 36, I've played a long time. You still have things that you have to learn and adjust to. That was one of them I think I adjusted to it in January. It took me longer than I would have liked, obviously, but like I said before, going into next year I'll know how to approach it differently. In regards to what happened this season, I can guarantee that's not going to happen again. I feel like I'm going to have a great regular season next year. I know it's looking a long ways ahead. But I don't look at it as being a negative. When stuff happens like that, I use it as a positive. Change my thinking, make the corrections and move on. I think that's just another thing that, unfortunately, I had to learn at that time. But it was good."

And may well pay off with another Stanley Cup.

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