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  Osgood's Not Only As Good
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 1998; Page C6

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Maybe now the doubters will stop chasing Chris Osgood. The Detroit Red Wings' goaltender, chased by nay-sayers throughout the season, was brilliant again last night. Osgood stopped 30 of 31 shots to help the Red Wings win their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of the finals at MCI Center. Detroit won the series, four games to none.

"It's amazing," Osgood said as a teammate poured champagne over his head in the Red Wings' victorious locker room. "I just had all the confidence in the world in myself. I played four really good series."

The only shot that got past Osgood last night was Brian Bellows's rebound attempt in the second period. Other than that, Osgood was splendid.

Last season, though, Osgood played just 47 minutes while backing up Mike Vernon, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. However, last summer, the Red Wings traded Vernon to San Jose because they felt Osgood would be their No. 1 goalie and they didn't want to meet Vernon's salary demands.

Osgood made that decision look smart. He played all but one minute in the postseason and was the difference in this series, outplaying Washington's Olaf Kolzig.

"Every series we've played in, he was the best goalie," Red Wings defenseman Larry Murphy said. "What else can you ask for?"

Said right wing Martin Lapointe, who scored the Red Wings' second goal last night: "Ozzie stepped it up a notch. He showed he's a number one goalie. He's had good times and bad times, but he belongs. He's a world-class goalie."

Indeed, Osgood had some disappointing moments this season, even during the postseason. He allowed three goals from beyond the blue line in the playoffs — including one in overtime from the red line in the Western Conference finals against Dallas, raising doubts that he could take a team to a Stanley Cup championship.

However, Osgood was great in the finals. In three of the games, he allowed just one goal; in the other, a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 2, Osgood regrouped after a shaky start and allowed just one goal in the final 45 minutes.

Among his better saves last night, Osgood got a pad on a one-timer by Kelly Miller from the left circle early in the second period and managed to get his right shoulder on a slap shot by Bellows from the top of the left circle just after Bellows's goal.

After the Red Wings skated half a lap around the ice with injured defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov carrying the Stanley Cup in his lap, captain Steve Yzerman raised the Cup, then passed it to the 25-year-old Osgood. "That meant a lot to take the Cup from Stevie," Osgood said.

It was a special moment for Osgood's family also.

"He just kept getting better and better," said Peter Osgood, Chris's father. "He kept getting more confident. You could see him growing throughout the playoffs."

Said center Kris Draper: "Last year everybody was excited for Stevie [Yzerman] winning his first Cup. This year everybody is excited for Ozzie."

Osgood's play allowed Detroit to become the first repeat champion since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and '92. The Red Wings are the first team to sweep opponents in consecutive finals since the New York Islanders in 1982 and '83.

The biggest question surrounding the Red Wings' ability to make another title run next season centers on Coach Scotty Bowman, who last night tied Toe Blake's record of coaching eight Stanley Cup champions.

After the game, Bowman said he plans to take some time before deciding whether he will return for a sixth season with the Red Wings and 28th in the NHL.

But after that game, that was not a topic of concern.

"This is unbelievable," left wing Kirk Maltby said. "It's better than the first one. I can't describe it in words."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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