PITTSBURGH — It wasn’t so long ago that none of this seemed possible for Chris Osgood.
When the Detroit Red Wings sent their goaltender home for a few days in February, who would have guessed that he’d be making a strong pitch for the Conn Smythe Trophy?
Even as this star-studded Stanley Cup final kicked off over the weekend, how many people figured he’d be the biggest difference-maker in Games 1 and 2?
But there was Osgood turning back the talented Pittsburgh Penguins, allowing just two goals during the first two games of a championship series that could be heading for a quicker conclusion than most would have imagined.
If it ends with another championship for the Motor City, Osgood will be the odds-on favourite to be named playoff MVP.
And when you listen to coach Mike Babcock describe the play of his goaltender this spring, it seems like a fitting honour.
“In this series and in probably every series at times, he’s had to be really good for us,” Babcock said Monday.
“And he’s found a way to do that. Lots of nights he doesn’t get a lot of action for a long period of time, and we make a mistake and give up quality, quality chances and he’s there for us.
“He’s played real well for us and given us a chance.”
There might not be a happier player among a very happy Red Wings team than Osgood right now.
He has an opportunity to win his fourth Stanley Cup ring — three of which will have come as the starter, matching the total of guys like Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
Most hockey pundits probably wouldn’t place him in the same category as those two contemporaries, but Osgood is making a strong case for himself as a top-notch playoff performer.
He holds a career 10-2 record in Stanley Cup games and considers this his favourite time of year.
“I just enjoy that the level of competition is so high,” said Osgood.
“I enjoy going to rinks and playing opposing teams.
“I really look forward to (Game 3 tonight). It will be a lot of fun playing in Pittsburgh again. The rink will be loud.
“You know in the regular season the rinks aren’t the same.
“The playoffs are loud, the atmosphere is great.”
Many of the biggest plays of this Stanley Cup have involved Osgood — there’s the breakaway stop he made on Evgeni Malkin in Game 1 and the glove save he made on the Russian sniper one night later.
And don’t forget the pad he got on Sidney Crosby’s deke attempt in the third period of Game 2.
The focus on Osgood during these playoffs is bound to be followed with a growing sentiment that he warrants strong consideration for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team.