OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 5 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:
2008-2009 Regular Season: 46 GP, 26-9-8, 2 SO, 3.09 GAA, 0.887 SV%
2009 Playoffs: 23 GP, 15-8, 2 SO, 2.01 GAA, 0.926 SV%
Season Highlight: Coming this close to winning the Conn Smythe. Or this save. They're related.
Season Lowlight: His “mental health break” midway through the regular season.
Ozzie’s regular season left a lot to be desired last year. I won’t go into detail because we all know that it was ugly. His record wasn’t that bad, but his goals against and save percentage were bad enough that I almost didn’t want to include them at the top of this post. Some of the blame for his numbers falls on the pathetic defensive displays that the Wings put on far too often during the regular season, but Osgood himself admitted that he lacked focus throughout the season. Then, when the playoffs hit, he “flipped the switch” and was the best goalie during the playoffs. If you didn’t know better, you never would’ve believed that it was the same guy between the pipes. I wanted them to win for Ozzie more than any other Wing. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was destined for the Conn Smythe had the Wings managed to eke out that last victory. He finally managed to silence his critics, and I loved every second of it.
The Wings desperately need to see “playoff Ozzie” all season long this time around. The race for the Central, while not being spectacularly important in the grand scheme of things, will be even tighter this year thanks to all of Chicago’s off-season improvements. At the same time, it’s hard to argue that the Wings haven’t taken a step back offensively. Some of the “lost goals” will need to be accounted for by letting fewer into their own net, and Osgood will play a crucial role in that. There’s no Ty Conklin around this year to pick up the slack if Ozzie struggles through the regular season. Instead, less-than-proven Jimmy Howard is slated to give us all a thousand heart attacks.
So far this pre-season, Ozzie hasn’t impressed me. I didn’t catch the game last night, but his performances that I have seen haven’t left me with abundant confidence. All summer long (and really for all of last season too), I’ve been defending him and predicting a return to form, and I’m really hoping he doesn’t make me look like a fool. I don’t put a lot of stock into the pre-season on account of the games being meaningless, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little bit of nervousness creeping in.
What he needs to do to make me happy: Relieve my stress over the Jimmy Howard Experiment by playing as well as we all know he can.