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Osgood finds his game

Thursday, 04.23.2009 / 3:47 PM ET / News
By Mike G. Morreale
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Osgood finds his game
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Over the course of the regular season's 82-game grind, every player will experience hot and cold streaks. Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood was no exception.

"It was a pretty dark tunnel in January, I've got to tell you," Osgood said.

But the 36-year-old Osgood has unquestionably found daylight. And while some may point to his postseason play as being the reason, he knows better.

"Over the last 15 games of the regular season, I tried to pick up my game a little more -- to the point where I felt good and sharp heading into the postseason," Osgood said. "That's experience where I know how to get to that point and now this is fun. I knew I needed to start playing well and I feel I was doing that over the last month and a-half."

Osgood went 8-4-1 with two no-decisions in his final 15 appearances of the regular season with a 2.46 goals-against average, .890 save percentage and two shutouts. Not staggering statistics by any means, but certainly good enough for the veteran Osgood.

"From experience, you just know how to prepare by doing the little things in practice to sharpen up and get in the right spot, mentally," Osgood said. "First and foremost is playing well so that when I step on the ice you're not second-guessing yourself. But that comes with doing the right things off and on the ice in practice so when you get to the playoffs, you're just playing and that's the point I reached."
I knew I needed to start playing well and I feel I was doing that over the last month and a-half. - Chris Osgood

Few would argue with Osgood. He's helped the defending Stanley Cup champion to three straight victories over the Columbus Blue Jackets in their best-of-7 Western Conference Quarterfinal series with a 0.67 GAA and .974 save percentage. He stopped 31 shots in a 4-1 victory in Game 3 in the hostile environment of Nationwide Arena, and he'll look for a repeat performance in Game 4 on Thursday.

"Our goaltending has been real good, and yet it's not like we're that surprised," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "That's how he was last year in the playoffs. There's something about experience, in life. When you have it, it's good, and when you don't have it, it's overrated."

The Blue Jackets have discussed in detail the importance of getting second opportunities and crashing the net, perhaps to rattle Osgood and get him off his game. But they took their best shot on Tuesday and still fell short.

"Everyone anticipated that (Osgood) would struggle and I think everyone anticipated that to be a question mark, but he's been everything but," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's been really good early in games. Our best periods have been the first of each game, and we still can't buy a goal and he's been the difference. He's made second and third saves, and that's something I don't think we thought would happen."

When the Detroit coaching staff gave Osgood a four-game break in February, skeptics claimed the end was near. Quite the contrary.

"I know he had a break during the season and some thought he was on the beach or something and that wasn't the case at all -- we just wanted to give him a mental break," Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard told "Someone actually asked me how his vacation was going, and I told him to come to a practice if you want to see his vacation because he was still working hard. It was more or less hitting the reset button to get back physically and mentally."

One aspect in which Osgood has excelled in this series has been controlling rebounds -- and when the puck slips away, he's had plenty of support.

"Sometimes it's luck, but it's all of matter being square and anticipating plays by knowing where it's going to go before it gets there and making yourself big," the 5-foot-10 Osgood said. "(Columbus) has big players, so for me, I just try and get as close as I can to them and try to make myself big and get to the puck before they can."

Bedard also realizes it's about trust, something the Red Wings have perfected. Trust has enabled Ozzie to take away 8-10 shots each game by way of handling the rebounds.

"It comes down to trusting your defensemen and your back-checkers," he said. "It's a great thing when a goalie can play aggressively and take all the net because when you see one of their players surrounded by three of our guys, you're instincts just tell you to take away more of the net because they are limited. Guys like (Henrik) Zetterberg, (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Marian) Hossa always come back into our end on a mission. That enables the defenders to stand up at the blue line and the goalie to play aggressive."




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80