Maybe it's his size – he's listed generously at 5-foot-10 and 178 pounds. Maybe it's his mild-mannered demeanor, or the fact that he's been overshadowed by players like sure-fire Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek
for much of his career.
Whatever the reason, Chris Osgood
rarely gets his due.
But that could be about to change.
Osgood is three wins away from leading the Detroit Red Wings
to their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years. He didn't have to be great in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh, but he was flawless, making 19 saves in the Wings' 4-0 victory.
Though the Wings gradually ground down the inexperienced Penguins, it was Osgood's early heroics that gave them the chance. The 35-year-old stopped all 12 first-period shots he faced and kept the Penguins off the scoreboard even though Pittsburgh had three straight power plays, forcing Osgood to make a handful of key saves.
"They were huge, especially in those shorthanded situations," team captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said of Osgood's stops on the Penguins' power plays. "They had three or four power-play situations early, and he really shut the door."
Osgood rarely faces a barrage of shots. Playing for a team like the Red Wings, he's more often called upon to make a few key stops, rather than a bundle of brilliant ones, or keep his team in the game until it can take control, as he did on Saturday night.
"Ozzie was the difference, he and the penalty killers," said forward Daniel Cleary, who scored a shorthanded goal late in the third period that gave the Wings a 3-0 lead.
Osgood enters Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) three wins away from leading the Wings to a Stanley Cup in a year in which he began the playoffs on the bench. Though Osgood played slightly more than Hasek in the regular season, it was “The Dominator” who got the call in the playoffs. Osgood didn't get off the bench until early in the second period in Game 4 of the opening round, after the Nashville Predators had rallied to beat Hasek in Game 3 and scored three quick goals in Game 4.
Though Osgood was perfect the rest of the way, Nashville held on for a series-tying 3-2 win in Game 4. But Osgood won his next nine decisions as he led the Wings past the Predators, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars to reach the Final for the first time since 2002.
"Ozzie's been overlooked all year," Cleary said following Game 1. "He made some huge saves when we needed him to. Tonight he got rewarded with a shutout. He made some huge saves early in the game on their power play and kept us alive. One we got up by one or two goals, he was good."
He's been good – actually far better than good – for most of his career. Osgood went 27-9-4 during the regular season with a 2.09 goals-against average, giving him 363 regular-season victories. He owns two Stanley Cup rings, one from 1998, when he equaled the League record with 16 playoff wins while leading the Wings to their second straight title. Saturday's win was his 49th playoff victory as a Red Wing – he broke Terry Sawchuk's franchise mark in the previous round against Dallas.
He did it with performances like Saturday's – coming up big when his team needed him most.
"If it wasn't for Ozzie, it could have been a different game," center Kris Draper said. "We were back on our heels a little bit. We got into penalty trouble … if he doesn't come up making those big saves, it's a different game."
Coach Mike Babcock also cited Osgood as a difference-maker.
"Ozzie made some real good saves, but the game can be totally different, and then we score first. Maybe if they score first, it's a different game for them,” Babcock said.
One thing that Osgood doesn't expect is an easy night in Game 2. He knows that the Penguins will come out even harder after losing the series opener.
"They're everything we expected," he said. "They made some beautiful plays, some nice plays, not only in front of me, but coming out of their zone – so we've got to be on top of our game. We had to play very, very well the last two periods and give it everything we've got just to win that game."