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Detroit's Osgood authors perfect backup plan

by Dan Rosen /

Chris Osgood's new attitude helped him post some of the NHL's best numbers despite entering the season as Dominik Hasek's backup.
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Chris Osgood was living in a world he wasn’t unaccustomed to and he didn’t like it.

When Osgood came to Red Wings’ training camp in 2005, he was ready to compete with Manny Legace for his old job as Detroit’s No. 1 goalie. But an early-season injury -- coupled with Legace’s inspiring performances -- left Osgood on the bench.

Osgood, who was Detroit’s starting goalie in its 1998 Stanley Cup championship run, was unhappy. He had never been a backup before.

“It was just because I was used to playing so much and I couldn’t stand sitting on the bench,” Osgood said of being Legace’s backup. “It got frustrating to a point where it affected the way I would practice or how I’d be in the locker room. I was mad. I was used to playing. I couldn’t stand sitting there.”

These days, Osgood understands that he is the backup to all-world goalie Dominik Hasek. He understood entering the season that he would likely have to sit on the bench for a significant number of games and accepted the fact that he would be playing less. He believes that shift in thinking has made him a better goalie.

“When I first came back (to Detroit) I hated it,” Osgood said. “It was the toughest year I played. Then I thought; ‘You know what, this is supposed to be fun regardless of my role.’ I feel that I’m better than I was 10 years ago, I don’t get a chance to play as much as I did 10 years ago. I’m more of a complete goalie than I ever have been, and maybe that’s from just practicing more and being more diligent with the drills.”

Osgood said to get comfortable in his role his daily routine needed to change, so he started practicing more than he used to. Osgood now goes on the ice 20 minutes early and stays on at least 30 minutes later than most of his teammates.

Osgood also increased his number of off-ice workouts and began approaching every gameday the same way as if he was the clear-cut No. 1.

“When you’re sitting there watching the game you don’t want to be worried about going in,” Osgood said. “If you’re always ready you’re going to be confident. If you’re always ready you have nothing to worry about.”

Osgood’s new philosophy worked out perfectly for him and the Red Wings when Hasek went down with a hip injury Nov. 7. Osgood stepped in and has been one of the NHL’s best goalies since then.

Hasek got healthy, but Osgood has been too good to relinquish the role. This season he has the best goals-against average in the League (1.71 GAA) among goalies who play regularly and he’s 18-2-1 in 22 games.

“You never accept not playing,” Osgood said. “I know Dom is going to be the guy who plays in the playoffs; but I want to do everything I can to stay ready to show that I can still play up to a high level and show I can still be a No. 1 goalie.”


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