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With little fanfare, Osgood continues to succeed

by Brian Compton
DETROIT -- Three hundred and eighty-nine victories in the regular season. On Saturday night, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood earned career win No. 74 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 5-0 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at Joe Louis Arena.

It was the 15th career postseason shutout for Osgood, and his third in a Stanley Cup Final game. Obviously, the success Osgood enjoys at this time of year is nothing new around these parts.

For whatever reason, though, the 36-year-old consistently flies under the radar. Perhaps some are under the impression that Osgood is merely a product of Detroit's system. Perhaps they have forgotten what Osgood did for the New York Islanders in the early part of this decade, or when he posted 31 victories and a 2.24 goals-against average for the St. Louis Blues in 2003-04.

One could certainly make the case that Osgood is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL. No respect. But the bottom line is this: The Wings' goalie is just one victory away from what would be his fourth Stanley Cup championship, and his second in a row. No matter how one slices it, that deserves a ton of recognition.

"I think he does from the players, I don't think he has from the media," Detroit forward Daniel Cleary said when asked if Osgood receives the accolades he deserves. "I think he will now. I think he's proven himself to be a goalie you can count on, you can win with. He's a real gamer, real competitive. It's not easy to be a goalie in Detroit, and he certainly has that demeanor about him and his ability to handle the pressure. He delivered for us last year, and he's right back at it again this year."

Osgood certainly delivered on Saturday night, when he stopped all 22 shots he faced to help the Red Wings grab a 3-2 series lead. Ten of those saves came in the first period, when the Penguins generated several quality scoring chances.

But Osgood -- who experienced a rough regular season that featured 10 days away from the rink so he could clear his head -- was there each and every time, which allowed the Wings to get back on the right track. Cleary then gave Detroit a 1-0 lead with 6:28 left in the first period.

"Ozzie was huge for us early on," Red Wings forward Kris Draper said. "They came out with a great push, and Ozzie had to make some big saves early. I thought defensively, we had some good battles that we were able to win around the net. Our start wasn't nearly as good as it should have been from our team."

But Osgood was there to prevent any damage. It was yet another indication that the unusual regular season was far in the past.

"We all in our life had some chances to be complacent, and when that happens things usually snowball in a negative way," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "He's been able to get it stopped and really help our team and play really well. All the power to him. He's done a good job for us, and put our team in a good situation now."

The Red Wings are certainly in a tremendous situation now, as they've given themselves two cracks to win yet another championship. Obviously, they will need a better start on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, where they've yet to win in this series.

"I try not to think about it … everybody else will tell you, though," Osgood said after Saturday's win. "Whenever you're up, they seem to think it's easy and it's over. Whenever you're down, they think you're done. I've heard it tons of times. You have to earn everything you get in this game."

Perhaps it's time to give Osgood what he's earned.


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