Waiting in the "Red" Wings: Chris Osgood's Patience Rewarded in Detroit
2 goals in 9 seconds; 2 goals in 11 seconds; 2 goals in 32 seconds.
Those are the spans of time it took the Nashville Predators to score a pair of goals in three of the six games their series with the Detroit Red Wings lasted.
Now every goalie will oft be rattled by a fluke goal, such as the one Dominik Hasek saw carom off a stanchion right into the slot where it was buried into the Red Wings net. Every so often, that happens right? Now twice in a row, we're on thin ice [damn, there is another play on words]. But three times? Maybe the geriatric Hasek is losing more upstairs than he is in his athleticism.
Don't get me wrong, Hasek is not the goalie he was when he put the Buffalo Sabres on his back and carried them to the Stanley Cup Finals. He isn't the goalie he was when he won the Stanley Cup in Detroit in 2002. But he still has the ability to steal a game. His unorthodox style still baffles NHL opponents, even more so than his horrible accent.
But the time struck midnight on the 40-something year old Hasek. His inability to stay focused after a weak goal called for a changing of the guard. Head Coach Mike Babcock decided to yank Hasek late in Game 4. Osgood came in and did not let a goal in during his tenure. He only let up a single goal in Game 5. Osgood does not make the Sportscenter Top Plays list, but he does his job. He does it damn well. He is in position so he never has to make that ridiculous save. The Red Wings outshoot opponents nightly. They had 52 shots at the end of regulation in their overtime win against the Predators, and 44 shots in Game 6.
Osgood, again got the start in Game 6, and faced 20 shots. He stopped every single one of them, blocking out any hopes of a Nashville comeback when they had managed to "Make something out of nothing," as Preds' Head Coach Barry Trotz praised, in the games prior to this one.
As we saw happen so easily to Hasek, a lucky bounce, a fluke goal, is what got Dan Ellis off his game. If only for a second, it is what the Red Wings needed to end any thoughts of a Game 7. Lidstrom got the puck off the draw from Henrik Zetterberg and took a shot from behind the red line that bounced a few feet in front of Ellis. With the warm temperatures and the rough ice in Nashville, the puck took a fortuitous bounce over the glove side of Ellis. And what made that goal even worse was that Nashville had begun a power play with that same drop at center.
The Red Wings never looked back as they found the back of the net again off a one-time goal scored by Jiri Hudler, assisted by Darren Helm. Darren McCarty was a key factor in that play, heading to the net, and in doing so, took two Nashville skaters with him, leaving Hudler wide open.
The Red Wings scored an empty net tally when Brian Rafalski caught a backhand intended as a dump-in around his blue line, took a stride up, and fired the puck into the middle of the net.
It goes to show what a class act Chris Osgood is. He never complained about not being the "starter." Never before has a two-goalie rotation worked in the playoffs. Just ask the 1997 Philadelphia Flyers, who split time between Ron Hextall and Garth Snow. Osgood stepped up in the regular season when Hasek was hurt and performed beautifully. Hasek came back, and Babcock gave him the job he had been told was his. Osgood never told the media how he was upset. He restated that he knows his role on this team, and when "Babs" tells him it's his time, it's just that.
Ozzie, as he's known in Hockeytown, is looking great going into the second round. With a sterling .982 save percentage, his appears to be at the peak of his game. The Red Wings do not know who they will face yet, but it is known that Osgood will start the series. It appears as though they'll ride him until he falters, which doesn't seem likely right now.
However, I haven't done one player, in particular, justice. He stood across from Hasek and Osgood in the Predators goal, and that is Dan Ellis. He gave his team a chance to win most every game. In 6 games, he faced 240 shots. You're reading that right, the Red Wings averaged 40 shots a game over the course of the series. He let in only 15 goals, which is a goals against average nearing 2.5. Now if there is one person who did not get a fair shake in this series, it's this kid. He stood on his head, giving the undermanned and undermatched Predators a shot every night. Hats off to Dan Ellis. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of him in years to come.
And thank you to Chris Osgood, whose recent play brings back memories of 1998. Let's see you do it again, Chris.
And the laughable thing is, this guy is our backup.
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