Drew Sharp: Rotating goalies can be turn for the worse
It's too early to panic -- despite the familiarity of another first-round fluctuation -- but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock opted for pulling the alarm when he pulled the plug on Dominik Hasek.
There's no room for revolving doors now.
Babcock justified his decision to start Chris Osgood in tonight's pivotal Game 5 against Nashville as a continuation of a successful regular-season rotation. But in the playoffs, you ride one guy until he tosses you into the abyss.
Babcock made a move to win a series, believing Osgood represents the better chance of beating the gritty but undermanned Predators. But he's deluding himself if he believes benching Hasek can restore his psyche and performance to the high level the Wings need to achieve the only goal that matters in this organization -- winning the Stanley Cup.
He probably has lost Hasek for good with this decision.
"The puck didn't hit him in Nashville," Babcock said. "The bottom line is we've done this all year long. Ozzie has been very, very good for us. I thought Ozzie played well (in Game 4), so that's what we're doing. I told Dom to get out on the ice and get some work done and get your game back. We plan on having a long run, so be ready."
The sweat poured off Hasek's brow from the extra work Thursday. He knew the odds of his benching were good after surrendering uncharacteristically soft goals in two straight games.
"It's Ozzie's time to step up," Hasek said. "Ozzie is No. 1 guy (Friday). It's disappointing, but it's the way it is. The coaches believe they made the best decision. I won't make predictions on what might happen next. I just know that now Ozzie is No. 1 and I'm No. 2 guy."
Geniuses have their idiosyncrasies, but those peculiarities are more easily tolerable when there's confidence that the brilliance inevitably will find the light. But the concern is that although Hasek is only a year removed from a tremendous playoff performance, he's also a year removed from the motivation he desperately needed to rediscover that brilliance.
Hasek's mission last year was proving wrong those who said he quit on Ottawa a year earlier.
There wasn't comparable inspiration this season, but the Wings willingly assumed the risk, appreciative of the tremendous upside if they got the determined Hasek for another season.
This uncertainty should finally convince general manager Ken Holland that the time has finally arrived to develop a young goalie next season.
Let's find out if Jimmy Howard can become a franchise netminder.
Instead, the Wings find themselves choosing between an old goalie and a very old goalie.
Time rewarded Osgood with a steadier equilibrium and a sturdier sense of self-confidence than 10 years ago when he etched his name onto the Cup as the starter.
"You've seen more," Osgood said. "You don't panic. You don't get as excited. You know how to play. You know how to prepare. You know what to do."
Osgood enjoyed a career renaissance this season, starting for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game and earning a new two-year contract. But it's always dangerous assuming regular-season success easily transfers to the playoffs.
"I'm not going to worry about all that," he said. "I'm just going to play the game I know that I'm capable of playing."
Osgood must raise his performance to an even higher level than 1998, because Babcock can't count on a restored Hasek coming to the rescue should Ozzie hiccup after he has endured the indignity of being benched.
Stanley Cups aren't won by juggling goalies. You choose one and stay with him, for better or worse.
"The greatest thing about this game is that the truth today isn't the truth tomorrow," Babcock said. "Ozzie has an opportunity. Let's see what he does with it."
When asked about the arrangement between him and Hasek, Osgood called it a "1A and 1B" situation. But goalies are comparable to quarterbacks -- if you say that you have two, you really don't have any.
Contact DREW SHARP at 313-223-4055 or email@example.com
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