Starkey: Osgood star of series

| Monday, June 1, 2009

DETROIT — If a vote were taken today, it wouldn't be close.

At least, it shouldn't be close: Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood would be your Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.

"Ozzie saved us again," Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg said after Detroit's 3-1 victory Sunday night, the one that put the Penguins in a deadly 0-2 hole.

NBC had a "Star Cam" trained on Penguins centers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. Maybe it should have had one trained on Osgood, who has stopped 62 of 64 shots.

Sure, "Ozzie" got some help from his posts. Bill Guerin hit two and Crosby hit one. He didn't have to make a dozen spectacular saves, but that's the thing: Osgood never looks all that pretty; he just wins.

That is especially true at playoff time. Only seven goalies in the history of the league have more playoff victories than Osgood's 73. He consistently stops the first shot and rarely allows a bad goal. His counterpart, Marc-Andre Fleury, has allowed three bad goals in the series, including a long-range knuckleball from Red Wings rookie Justin Abdelkader last night.

Make no mistake, this is Osgood's time of year. There are games where he faces very few quality chances, but the first two games of this series were different.

"Every year, I look forward to the playoffs," Osgood said. "The regular season is long and monotonous sometimes, which is why you look forward to going to the playoffs. This is why you go to training camp, to get to this point. They're fun games to play in."

For the Penguins, these games against Detroit have become incredibly frustrating to play in. Unlike the first two games of last year's final, they have carried the play for large chunks of each game, but what's the difference, really, between getting outscored 7-0 one year and 6-2 the next?

Teams almost never recover after losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. They are 3-41. The most recent team to overcome a 2-0 deficit was the 1971 Montreal Canadiens, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games.

It's not that the Penguins are incapable of such a feat. They have already come back from a 2-0 deficit in this year's playoffs, winning in seven games against Washington. But let's be honest, winning four of five against a team as talented and experienced and accomplished as the Red Wings seems more than a little unlikely.

The Penguins jumped to a 1-0 lead when Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart knocked the puck into his own net — see, the Penguins didn't even beat Osgood on their lone goal of the night — but could not score the all-important second one.

Detroit came back using a familiar recipe: Get pucks to the net and crash hard. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson scored the first at 4:21 of the second period on a long slap shot through a screen from Darren Helm. That came after Penguins coach Dan Bylsma neglected to use a timeout after his second line had been pinned in its end before icing the puck.

Helm started the play by winning a faceoff against Max Talbot, making for the third time in the series a lost faceoff led to a Detroit goal. Valtteri Filppula got the second one on a goal-mouth scramble at 10:29 of the second period.

After Abdelkader's goal, the Penguins fought back furiously. Osgood kept it 3-1 when kicked away Crosby's point-blank attempt in the waning minutes.

So, the Red Wings come out of the weekend not feeling all that good about the way they played in either game, but feeling real good about winning both.

Ozzie saved them.

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