Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blueland Guest Goalie: Chris Osgood

The summer is winding down and we hockey fans can see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we get closer to the season beginning I still have 4 "big name" goalies to do for this little series I started. We will begin with Chris Osgood.

Ozzy. The Wizzard of Oz. Flopsgood. Nogood. Osbad. Or, my personal favorite...Elroy! Come on, he looks just like him, he's stinking adorable. How can you not love that little elf face. Most of the time I don't love him and he ranks as one of my least favorite goalies, but I will admit to having a dirty little secret crush on him. Truth be told, I talk a lot of shit about Ozzy. "Anyone can be a goalie for Detroit, it's Detroit." "Big deal, he plays behind the Red Wings." "He only sees like 15 shots!" These are all common attitudes that people express about Ozzy, but Ozzy doesn't care. He knows his fans believe in him and his team believes in him and that seems to be what matters to him. Even if you are no fan of Oz, it's hard to argue with these numbers:

* 389 Regular season wins (tying ex-teammate Dominik Hasek for 10th all-time)
* 74 Playoff wins (8th most of all time)
* 49 Regular season shutouts, second among active goalies behind Martin Brodeur
* 15 Playoff shutouts 9(4th of all time)
* 2.09 Playoff GAA, 10th best all-time (among goalies with at least 25 playoff games
* 3 Stanley Cups
* 2 NHL All Star Games
Hockey fans might be on opposing sides of the argument about him being added to the Hall of Fame one day, but Osgood has had a very successful career.

What I admire about Ozzy is his ability to get up and brush himself off and get back in the game. Whether it's relearning his game during the lock-out or taking advantage of the 10 day hiatus he was put on this season, Ozzy sees the problem and makes the adjustments to fix it.

Before we begin, I have to post this picture. This is double cheating. This is NOT last season and it's not even in Blueland. This is a picture from the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Red Wings eliminated the Nashville Predators at this game (BOOO!) This is one of my favorite hockey pictures of all time though, so I have to post it. There is just something about it I love.

Christopher John Osgood was born on November 26, in the same year I was born, 1972. Another thing I like about Ozzy...he's ancient like me. He was born in Peace River, Alberta. Chris grew up in Edmonton. His dad was an educator and eventually the principal of his elementary school. Chris started skating at age 4 and always knew he wanted to go to the NHL.

Ozzy started his career in Junior Hockey playing 3 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He finished up junior hockey still in the WHL but playing his last two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Seattle Thunderbirds. In the 1991 NHL Entry draft, Chris was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 3rd round, 54th overall.

Finished with junior hockey, Ozzy started the 1992-93 season with the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings. Not exactly a stellar performance. Ozzy played in 45 games and had 19 wins, 19 losses and 4 ties. (those numbers don't add up to 45, so I'm not sure what happened. Maybe he got pulled a few times and that goalie let in the losing goal? not sure). He finished the season with a 3.91 GAA and a .880 Sv%.

Ozzy spent most of the 1993-94 season with the Adirondack Red Wings as well, but did make his NHL debut. On October 15 Ozzy made his first NHL appearance for the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He got his first NHL victory a few days later on October 23 when he made 23 saves against the LA Kings.

Ozzy spent most of the 1994-95 season in the NHL with Red Wings backing up Mike Vernon. He tied for second in NHL with .917 save percentage and fourth in GAA with 2.26. Allowed two goals or less 13 times in 19 starts. The Red Wings went to the Stanley Cup finals that season but were swept out of the finals by the New Jersey Devils.

Osgood received more playing time for the 1995-96 season. He led the NHL with a 2.17 GAA and 39 wins. He also finished third in shutouts (5) and was a Vezina Trophy runner-up to Jim Carey. Osgood and Vernon shared the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders allowing the fewest goals in the league. For his efforts Osgood was selected to the NHL All Star Game. That season, Ozzy also scored a goal against the Whalers becoming the second goalie to do so since Ron Hextal.

The next season (1996-97) Ozzie and Vernon started off sharing goal tending duties. As they went into the playoffs, Vernon got most of the starts and won the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup. In 1997 Vernon was traded to San Jose and Ozzy was Detroit's #1 goalie. Ozzy led his team to another Stanley Cup in 1998 and remained the primary goaltender for Detroit until 2001. Detroit tried to trade Ozzy several times, but could never work anything out. That summer he was put on waivers and claimed by the New York Islanders.

On the Islanders, Ozzy split playing time with Garth Snow during the 2001-02 season. He helped lead the Islanders to a playoff spot, but they lost in seven games to the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the 2002-03 season, he split playing time with both Snow and new super star goalie (who is made out of glass) Rick DiPietro. On March 11, 2003 he was traded to the St. Louis Blues.

For the rest of the 2002-03 season and all of the 2003-04 season, Ozzy was the primary goalie for St. Louis. Although Ozzy posted decent numbers (GAA 2.24 and SV%.910) St. Louis did make it to the 2004 playoffs and Ozzy's contract was not renewed, leaving him a free agent.

Ozzy didn't just sit around during the 2004-05 lock out or go play in Europe. He spent that season reinventing his game. He was used to stopping the puck anyway he could and was an athletic classic "stand up" goalie. He decided he needed to add the newer "butterfly" style to his repertoire. He paid a visit to Windsor goaltending instructor Stan Matwijiw.

"I told Stan I wanted a complete makeover. I told him my style wasn't working anymore. He just looked at me like I was crazy.

You were expected to stand up. 'Stand up. Stay in front of your net!' In fact, the coaches would yell at you if you went down. Now, your first instinct is to go down. In fact, I spend most of my time on my knees.

When I was playing with Mike Vernon in Detroit, he told me how he had to go back to relearn the position from a goalie guru somewhere. So that's what gave me the thought after it looked like St. Louis wasn't going to bring me back after the (work stoppage)," Osgood recalled. "Older goalies tend to reach a lot for the puck — and I was beginning to feel that. Younger goalies are taught to whole their whole bodies and stay in front of the puck.

"Stan started working with me on that, making sure I have my chest and shoulders in front of the puck. I guess the theory is similar to teaching a catcher to block pitches that come at him in all directions"

In the three seasons before he began working with Matwijiw, Osgood had an 84-66-20 record, with a 2.51 goals-against average and 11 shutouts. In the three years since returning to Detroit, he's gone 58-18-15, with a 2.38 with six shutouts.

Ozzy's heart was always in Detroit. Even though he was good friends with General Manager, Ken Holland and the two frequently spent time together, Ozzy never asked to come back. He didn't want to put his friend in an awkward position and just hoped that things would work out with him coming back. Finally, in August 2005 he got his wish and signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a UFA. In 2006 he signed a 2 year contract. In January 2008 he signed a three year deal keeping him as a Wing until 2011.

Ozzy led his team to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and led them to Game 7 of the finals in 2009. Had the Penguins not won, I was hoping he would get the Conn Smythe. He played really well. You would not have thought this months before when he was benched for 10 days to collect himself due to poor play. In classic Ozzy fashion he didn't sit around licking his wounds. He worked with goal tending coaching Jim Bedard and got his groove back. He damn near almost won the cup again.


Daculafan August 24, 2009 at 8:54 AM  

Good article. Lot's of great research. Perhaps Karppa could take a page from his book and figure out how to keep himself healthy...

Sunshine36616 August 24, 2009 at 9:19 AM  

Thank you so much for your comment! I really do put a lot of work into those guest goalie pieces, it's good to have someone recognize it. I usually have like 5 or 6 sources, but since Ozzy has been around a while, I had even more!
I would love to see Kari take a page out of someone's book (Moose would be a good one, his conditioning is top rate). I guess at least Kari hasn't taken a page out of DiPietro's book lol.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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