Let’s All Show Ozzie Some Love.

He has three Stanley Cup rings, two as a starter (1998, 2008), one as a backup (1997). Coming into this postseason, he has a lifetime playoff save percentage of 91.5 %. His lifetime playoff goals against average of 2.10 is better than that of Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, and Curtis Joseph. Only Patrick Roy has more rings. Of the others, Belfour has one title and Cujo, none.

That said, Detroit Red Wings’ goaltender Chris Osgood still gets almost no respect and is generally not involved in any discussions revolving around so-called “money” or “clutch” playoff goaltenders past or present. He is not even viewed in the same light as regular season marvels like Jose Theodore or Cristobal Huet even though they continually fold like lawn chairs in the playoffs.

After a mediocre 2008-2009 regular season in which he split time with backup Ty Conklin, Ozzie again has gotten into playoff form. His lackluster 3.09 regular season GAA is now an impressive 2.17, his unflattering 88.7 % regular season save percentage is now a sparkling 92%. He now tops all remaining goaltenders in both categories as he leads his mighty Detroit Red Wings toward the promised land. Lead? Osgood? Absolutely. Is this merely an aberration? I think not.

Last season, after a terrific regular season of 2.09 GAA and 91.4% save percentage while splitting time with Dominik Hasek, Ozzie took over down the stretch and in the playoffs, lowered his GAA to a miniscule 1.55 GAA and raised his save percentage to 93% as his Wings hoisted the Cup. It’s called playoff time folks, and when the regular season ends, and all the chips are down, Ozzie turns into a completely different animal. Yes, he does give up the occasional soft goal, but then again, what great goaltender hasn’t?

Playoff goaltending is all about making timely saves. Let’s look at the cold hard facts. Ozzie has again this year made a habit of winning pivotal games. He allowed but one goal in game 5 of the tough conference semifinal against Anaheim as he stopped 16 of 17 shots in a solid 4-1 victory. In the conference final against Chicago, his team now leads the series three games to one courtesy of a Motown style beatdown administered on the road in a crucial game 4 in which Ozzie stopped 18 of 19 shots before he succumbed to dehydration and was replaced by Conklin in the third period of a 6-1 win. This was a crucial game which the Wings had to win without the services of MVP candidate Pavel Datsyuk and Norris trophy candidate Niklas Lidstrom. Ozzie was again equal to the task.

Should the Wings win the Cup again this year, what would it take for Ozzie to be declared the hero? Last year, a 1.55 overall playoff GAA and two shutouts in the Cup final against Pittsburgh were not enough for him to be named playoff MVP, that honor went to teammate Henrik Zetterberg. On the other side of the coin however, had they not won it all last year, or if they don’t this year, he would almost certainly be declared the goat. No one ever said life was fair.

Of those who picked Anaheim to upset Detroit in the conference semifinal, many pointed to the combination of Anaheim sharpshooters on the ice and Chris Osgood in goal as the deciding factor. In short, he was supposed to be the reason they would lose that series. He wasn’t.

Many of those who picked Chicago in the conference final felt that Nik Khabibulin would stand tall, and Ozzie would buckle under the Blackhawks constant offensive pressure. So far, it hasn’t even been close, on either front.

I admit, it took me a long time to believe in Ozzie, but I have now seen the light.

Ozzie will turn 37 in November. After 15 years in the league and three rings, it’s time we all gave the man his props. There are goalies who thrive in the regular season, and goalies who thrive in the playoffs, Ozzie is the latter. Always give credit where credit is due.

Consider he has now won championships ten years apart. He signed with the Islanders in 2001 and stayed there two seasons before being traded to St Louis in 2003. He then missed the entire 2004-2005 lockout season, and was again signed by Detroit as a free agent in 2005. Last year was his first playoff action since that re-signing, meaning he hadn’t seen a playoff game in four years. That should at least qualify as a feel-good story. Where would Detroit have been without him last season? Detroit has seen the light and now has Ozzie under contract through the 2010-2011 season.

Career post season GAA is 2.10, career post season save percentage is 91.5%. Come playoff time, I’ll take Chris Osgood over a Jose Theodore/Cristobal Huet- type any day of the week.
You can take that to the bank.

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