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Wins keep rolling in for Osgood

by John Kreiser

Chris Osgood has reeled off eight straight wins in the playoffs for the Red Wings, while maintaining a league-leading 1.40 GAA.
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Chris Osgood doesn’t have the flash of Detroit teammate Dominik Hasek. He’s not a spectacular puck-handler like Dallas’ Marty Turco, his rival in the Western Conference Finals. He’s a solid goaltender who doesn’t do anything extraordinarily well.

Except win.

Few goaltenders in any era can match Osgood when it comes to winning games. He was 27-9-4 during the regular season while splitting time with Hasek, and improved to 8-0 during the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Stars Saturday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Detroit is two wins away from its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2002 entering Monday night's game at Dallas.

For his career, Osgood is 363-195-66, with 15 overtime losses in a career spent mostly with the Wings. His playoff resume includes a pair of Stanley Cup rings, including one in 1998 when he was the winning goaltender in all 16 Detroit victories.

But Osgood is one of those guys who always seems to be overlooked when the discussion turns to elite goalies. Maybe it’s because he never seems to have to work too hard.

While some goaltenders are forced to make great save after great save, Osgood has the opposite problem — he has to keep sharp while seeing few shots, though many of the ones he does see are good scoring chances. He faced only 18 tries by the Stars on Saturday, but had to be sharp on a pair of break-ins by Mike Ribeiro and was able to control the crease on a couple of point shots that went through traffic.

“It’s tough for him,” teammate Henrik Zetterberg said. “He gets a shot once in a while — most of the time on the power play, and it’s a real good chance. He kept us in the game today.”

Go back a generation or two and you could say much the same about Montreal’s Ken Dryden, who led the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups in the 1970s. Like Osgood, Dryden didn’t face a ton of shots, but his job was to make sure that as few of the good scoring chances he did face got behind him.

The Wings allow fewer shots — and take more — than any team in the League. Osgood doesn’t face a load of shots — just 39 in two games so far — but he’s been sharp.

“He didn't see a lot of action first period, but he played great in the second period for us when he had to, and he played well in the third,” defenseman Brian Rafalski said after Game 1. “That's what he's been doing these last six, seven games and expecting him to continue to do the same.”

Osgood started the playoffs on the bench, watching Hasek play. Wings coach Mike Babcock changed goalies early in the second period of Game 4 in the first round against Nashville after Hasek had given up three goals. He was flawless for the rest of Game 4, even though the Predators hung on for a 3-2 victory — and has allowed just 12 goals while winning the next eight games, tying a franchise record for consecutive playoff wins that was set by the 1949 Cup-winning team and tied in 1995, when Detroit went to the Final.

“I think we learned a lesson against Nashville in the first round,” he said after Saturday’s win. “It's not that we didn't play very well, we just didn't do little things right in Nashville. We made sure we did that in Colorado.

“We really played to our game plan, didn't deviate from it whatsoever and we ended up scoring a lot of goals that way rather than pushing things a little too much. We have to be sharp, play good in our own end, get pucks out of our blue line into their blue line and try and play in there as much as we can. If we do that, we've got enough talent that it's going to come out and we're going to do well.”

Especially with Ozzie in the net.


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