It's Fitting Chris Osgood Brings Cup Back to Hockeytown

harry jamesCorrespondent IJune 4, 2008

How do you spell redemption? In Detroit, it's O-S-G-O-O-D.

On Wednesday night, the story came full circle. Chris Osgood, against improbable odds, is back on top again after leading the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory over the Penguins in a clinching Game Six of 2008 Stanley Cup. And it happened with the team where he started it all 10 years ago.

Osgood, who led the NHL in wins in the 1995-96 season, again started most of the games in '96-97, but Mike Vernon took over virtually all of the goaltending duties by the playoffs. The results? Detroit winning its first Stanley Cup in 55 years behind an MVP performance by Vernon.

Nonetheless, Detroit GM Ken Holland made a bold move to give the up-and-coming goalie another shot at the limelight. It's not often that a team trades away the Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the previous season, but that is exactly what Holland did by dealing Vernon to San Jose. The job was finally Osgood's.

The results were better than anyone could've imagined. The kid known as "Ozzie" led the Red Wings to back-to-back Stanley Cups. For four seasons, Osgood was the man between the pipes for the Red Wings. During those seasons, Osgood posted a record of 122-78-27 with a 2.43 GAA.

But, after the 2000-01 season, Detroit recognized the writing on the wall. After failing to meet expectations in the playoffs the previous three seasons, the Wings felt they had gone as far as they could with Chris Osgood in net.

The Wings acquired Dominik Hasek and let Osgood go, leaving him to be claimed in the waiver draft by the New York Islanders. He never quite found a home with the Islanders, and he was sent to the St. Louis Blues in a trade during the 2002-03 season. He was immediately named the team's starting goalie. But, unfortunately, Ozzie couldn't lead the Blues past the Western Conference quarterfinals.

The Blues did not renew Osgood's contract before the 2004-05 NHL Lockout. When play resumed the next season, he was signed again by Detroit, as insurance for Manny Legace.

Since his return to the Red Wings, Osgood has been through a variety of injuries. He had a groin tear to start the 2005-06 season, which limited his playing time to just 32 games. When the 2006-07 season rolled around, Osgood was set to split the goal-tending duties with Hasek, to whom Osgood lost his job before the 2001-02 season. He fractured his hand during a practice and he only played in 21 games.

The same duo was supposed to share the net again this season, but after Hasek's slow start and injuries, Osgood assumed the spot of No. 1 goalie. Osgood put up superior numbers. He posted a record of 27-9-4 in 43 games, leading the NHL in GAA (2.09). But when Hasek returned, Ozzie saw himself relegated back to splitting time in goal.

When Hasek struggled in the Red Wings' first-round playoff series against Nashville, Osgood got the nod from Detroit head coach Mike Babcock. Just like he had done all season, he responded. Osgood won his first nine playoff games in a row. He was instrumental in the Wings' ease into the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

During the Finals, Detroit got more of the same performance from the prodigal son. Osgood shut out the powerful Penguins offense in the first two games of the season, stopping 41 shots in both contests. After in early goal in Game Four, Osgood shut down Pittsburgh to give the Red Wings a dominant, 3-1 series lead. Osgood's crucial save of Marian Hossa's rebound shot in the closing seconds on Wednesday sealed the Wings fourth Cup in 11 years.

Osgood, who may have had his best season yet this year, never gave up hope. When asked what drove him this postseason, Osgood told NBC, "I'm doing it for the guys who haven't won one yet. I know what it feels like to be on top of the mountain, and I want those guys to know how it is."

The story speaks for itself. Osgood, the consummate underdog, has done what Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, and Manny Legace couldn't since 2002: He delivered another piece of hardware to the Red Wings trophy case.

Lord Stanley's Cup is back in Hockeytown for another year, and the kid from Alberta, who wasn't good enough seven years ago, is the one who brought it home. Hollywood couldn't have scripted a better ending.