Detroit Can Clinch The Stanley Cup Monday Night

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Plan B has worked out pretty well for the Detroit Red Wings.
The NHL's top-seeded team planned on putting Dominik Hasek in goal during the playoffs and keeping him there.
"Dom is not going to struggle," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the day before the postseason started, attempting to shoot down a question about the possibility of playing Chris Osgood.
But when Hasek struggled against the Nashville Predators, Babcock benched the six-time Vezina Trophy winner in favor of Osgood during Game 4 of the first round.
So far, so good.
Osgood is 13-3 with three shutouts and a 1.45 goals-against average, helping Detroit pull within one win of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The Red Wings will get their first of three chances to win their fourth title in 11 seasons -- and 11th in franchise history -- on Monday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Osgood insisted he's not thinking about the ramifications.
"Sounds boring, but that's the way I've approached it all playoffs," Osgood said after one of his best performances lifted Detroit to a 2-1 win Saturday night at Pittsburgh and a 3-2 series lead. "It's fun for me when the game starts. That's my most enjoyable time of the entire playoffs is when I get out there, have my mind free and just play."
Osgood has had to make an average of just 22 saves a game behind a defense led by five-time Norris Trophy-winner Nicklas Lidstrom and backchecking forwards such as Selke Trophy finalists Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
"We're not looking for him to steal games," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said Sunday. "But when it was 1-1 in Game 4, Pittsburgh had a flurry of shots at him and one point and Ozzie made the saves we needed."
The Red Wings blocked as many shots (nine) as they gave up in the first period against the Penguins.
"They're doing an extremely great job in their zone," Pittsburgh's Marian Hossa said. "We couldn't get clean chances like we did in the three previous rounds. They're doing an excellent job defensively.
"It's really frustrating because I believe we can score more goals."
The Red Wings haven't always believed in Osgood.
Detroit drafted the native of Peace River, Alberta, in the third round of the 1991 draft and after he helped the franchise reach the conference finals in 1996, he was Mike Vernon's backup the next season when it won the Stanley Cup.
Osgood was the No. 1 goaltender for the 1998 Stanley Cup championship team. After being in net during early exits the next three seasons, he became expendable when Hasek was acquired going into the 2001-02 season.
The New York Islanders claimed Osgood on waivers, then traded him to the St. Louis Blues in 2003.
Osgood chose to come back to Detroit as a free agent three years ago following the lockout.
In a move that now looks brilliant, the Red Wings signed Osgood to a three-year contract extension in January seems like a bargain for the team: $1.7 million next season, $1.45 million in 2009-10 and $1.1 million for the 2010-11 season.
Osgood has 51 postseason victories with the Red Wings, breaking Terry Sawchuk's franchise record, and he's another win away from joining the Hall of Famer in another category.
Sawchuk is the only goalie in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup at least 10 years apart, winning titles in 1955 and 1967.
Former teammate Steve Yzerman said Osgood is a much better goalie than he was a decade ago.
"Technically, he has improved greatly and it's not just because of butterfly goaltending," said Yzerman, who now works for Holland in the front office. "He stays bigger in the net, he challenges more shots and he plays angles much better.
"We're lucky to have him."


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