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Published: Saturday, 5/10/2008

Osgood older, wiser; Red Wings goalie racks up 7-0 mark in playoffs

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who has allowed only seven goals in the Red Wings' seven- game winning streak, is two victories shy of the franchise record for career playoff wins (47). Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood, who has allowed only seven goals in the Red Wings' seven- game winning streak, is two victories shy of the franchise record for career playoff wins (47).
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - The last time the Red Wings squared off in the postseason with the Dallas Stars in 1998, a spry 25-year-old named Chris Osgood was in goal.

Now 10 years later when the two teams meet again for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals tonight at 7, Osgood will again be in between the pipes at Joe Louis Arena.

A little older and a little wiser but just as nimble as he was in his younger days, Osgood is still getting the job done in Hockeytown.

Since taking over for Dominik Hasek in Game 5 of Detroit's first round matchup with Nashville, Osgood hasn't lost a game. His postseason record stands at a perfect 7-0, and he needs just two more victories to match Terry Sawchuk's franchise record for most career playoff wins (47).

Osgood has surrendered just 11 goals during the Red Wings' current winning streak, giving him a league-leading 1.45 goals-against average in the playoffs. He also leads the NHL with a .939 save percentage in the postseason.

"Ozzie's played great for us," defenseman Brian Rafalski said following the Red Wings' 4-1 win over the Stars in Game 1 of their series Thursday night.

"He didn't see a lot of action, but in the second period he played great for us when he had to and played well in the third. That's what he's been doing these last six-seven games, and I expect him to continue to do the same."

When the two teams met in the 1998 Western Conference finals, Osgood posted two shutouts in a series that Detroit took in six games en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cups that year.

Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said this year's squad of late has reminded him of that dynasty.

"I think it's comparable to some of the great teams we had back in the '90s," Lidstrom said. "We're playing well as a team. We're not just relying on one or two players. We have a lot of players chipping in and helping out, and that's been one of keys to our success so far."

Members of that '98 club still on the Red Wings' bench include Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Darren McCarty, and, of course, Osgood.

With the exception of McCarty, Osgood is the only player from that list to bounce around with other organizations since then.

He returned to Detroit three years ago, however, and after backing up Manny Legace and Dominik Hasek, Osgood's ready to resume his role in the spotlight.

"Even when I wasn't playing, I felt confident even before I went in that I could do the job," Osgood said. "The team is playing real well. I don't feel like I need to go in there and steal games. I just have to play solid and play sharp and make the saves when I have to. I feel like I'm capable of doing that."

KRONWALL THE CRUSHER: Just like in the movie Jaws, it's not if he will attack but when he will next attack.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock referred to defenseman Niklas Kronwall as a "predator" after he laid out several Dallas forwards during Game 1 with bone-crushing hits in open ice.

"He's a physical guy," Babcock said. "He sees when a guy is vulnerable and he's got that ability to hunt you down. He's looking for you all the time.

"It's important for us with him and [defenseman Brad] Stuart that they're always on the hunt because it makes you nervous when you're out there. You have to be aware of where they're at."

MAN ADVANTAGE: Entering the conference finals with the lowest power-play success rate (20.9 percent) of the four teams still left in the playoffs, the Red Wings utilized the man advantage early and often in Game 1.

Detroit converted 3 of 7

power-play opportunities, which allowed them to jump out to a 3-0 lead on the Stars Thursday.

"The power play was unbelievable for us," Red Wings center Kris Draper said. "It's only one game, though. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves."

CHELIOS HONORED: Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios was named as a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy yesterday.

The award is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Other finalists include Toronto forward Jason Blake and Edmonton winger Fernando Pisani.

Chelios recently completed his 24th regular season in the NHL and his ninth with the Red Wings. The three-time Norris Trophy-winner and 11-time all-star has appeared in 1,616 regular season games, sixth on the all-time list.

In January, the 46-year-old Chicago native became the second-oldest player in NHL history, trailing only Gordie Howe.

The Masterton Trophy winner will be announced June 12.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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