Work in Sports
Os-good as it gets
Posted: Friday April 14, 2000 01:44 PM
By Kostya Kennedy, Sports Illustrated
DETROIT -- This postcard bears news of Chris Osgood, Red Wings goalie. The rest of the Western Conference might be interested to know he is feeling fine.
Osgood looks younger than 27, his close-cut natural blonde hair almost quaint in comparison to the peroxide-yellow, spiked manes of teammates Darren McCarty and Martin Lapointe. Osgood stood before his locker-room stall Friday night, the center of attention after he had made 19 saves, bested Kings goalie Stephane Fiset and led the Red Wings to a 2-0 Game 1 win. He chatted calmly, deflecting praise as easily as he deflects pucks, and credited the Detroit defense. "They really cleared people out of the way," said Osgood. "It's a privilege to be on this team, to be playing in these playoffs. It's a privilege and it's fun."
How nimble the Wings defense appeared against the Kings, cutting off shooting lanes and batting away passes. This is essentially the same group that last year seemed old and vulnerable without Osgood behind them. Osgood went down with a knee injury in last season's second round. As Detroit tumbled from a 2-0 series lead against the Avalanche to down and then out, people said the Wings looked old, not deep enough. Had aging defensemen Chris Chelios and Larry Murphy reached the end of their career?
If Osgood had been between the pipes, and healthy the whole way, Chelly and Murphy might have seemed as sprightly as they've appeared this year, and Detroit might be gearing for a four-peat. Last year veteran Bill Ranford filled in (not-so-admirably) when Osgood went down; this year seasoned Ken Wregget, 36, waits on emergency call.
Osgood may not be the most dramatically talented goalie in the NHL playoffs -- we might mention Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and such instead -- but he may be the most valuable. He is the Red Wings' MVP, and when he missed 15 games this season with a broken hand, the Wings seemed far from the league's elite. When he returned and sharpened his game in the season's last weeks, the Wings made a furious charge at the Blues for first place overall.
Instead Detroit came up short -- what might have been had Osgood not missed those 15 games? -- and so they face the fifth-seeded Kings in the first round. There was Osgood late in the third period of a 1-0 game (Detroit would add an empty-netter), turning away a tricky wrist shot, parrying a hard slapper, clearing the puck into the corner. When play stopped, Joe Louis Arena erupted into the familiar chants of Oz-zie!, Oz-zie!.
Osgood was feeling fine, and the Red Wings were on their way to shutout -- a couple of things the rest of the Western Conference might be interested to know.
Kostya Kennedy is a Sports Illustrated staff writer covering the Stanley Cup
playoffs for the magazine. He will check in periodically with postcards from the
edge of the action.