Throughout his career Osgood has been dogged by the perception that he has benefitted from playing behind a great team.
The Red Wings are still a very good team, but not as good as they have been in the past, and Osgood has the opportunity to make a difference. A difference so many experts have said he wasn't required to make in Detroit in the past. His job was not necessarily to win games for Detroit but rather not lose games for them.
Last year Osgood struggled through his worst season as a professional, and has vowed that there will not be a repeat this year. The Red Wings can't afford another season like that from Osgood, they don't have Ty Conklin to pick up the slack as he did last season, and new backup Jimmy Howard is in Detroit simply because the team has run out of options on the fifth year pro.
Howard's best season as a pro was four years ago as a rookie in Grand Rapids and since then his play has dropped off. Since being drafted in 2003, Howard has been considered the goalie of the future in Detroit and just needed some time to develop consistency in his game. The Hockey News annually ranks each team's top 10 prospects in their yearbook, and since being drafted the skinny on Howard every year has been that he needs to be more consistent while his ranking within the organization has risen from seventh in 2004-05 to second in 2007-08. This season he was ranked as the sixth best prospect in the Red Wings organization with the comment that it's now or never, and to top it off he has been passed by 2008 top draft pick and fellow goalie Thomas McCollum who was ranked second.
Howard has started 10 games for Detroit since being drafted because he hasn't developed as expected in the minors and hasn't played well when called up, winning just once. That is not a mix that inspires confidence that he can carry this team if Osgood falters.
Meanwhile despite the lack of recognition Osgood has won 389 games in his career, tied for tenth all-time in wins with Dominik Hasek, and is 34 wins shy of tying Tony Esposito for seventh at 423 wins. The interesting statistic in relation to the wins is that Osgood reaches these milestone wins in fewer games played.
He has a lifetime goals-against average of 2.47 which, among the 10 goalies he is chasing in wins, ranks fourth behind only Hasek (2.20), Martin Brodeur (2.21), and Jacques Plante (2.38).
He has led the Red Wings to two Stanley Cups as the starting goalie, and in 2008 led the NHL in goals against average in the regular season (2.09) and the playoffs (1.55).
Osgood led the 2001-02 New York Islanders to a winning record and the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons in his only full season with the team posting a record 32-25-6 and a goals against averge of 2.50 and 2003-04 in his only full season in St. Louis Osgood won 31 of St. Louis' 39 wins and had an overall record of 31-25-8 and a goals against average of 2.24.
Many experts have picked the Chicago Blackhawks to end the Red Wings eight year reign over the Central Divsion this season. Perhaps leading the Red Wings, as opposed to the Islanders or the Blues, to a better than expected finish is the accomplishment that will finally get Osgood the recognition his numbers suggest he deserves.
And finally he has the opportunity to do so, and the Red Wings have never needed him to do it more than this year.
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