It’s Time for Ozzie to Bail Out the Red Wings . . . Again

DETROIT, Mich. – After Red Wing goalie Jimmy Howard gave up a goal to Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Sami Lepisto just 29 seconds into Game 3 on Sunday, the ice tilted with the Red Wings stealing the momentum and dominating the play the rest of the period.

At the first intermission with the score deadlocked at one, Hockeytown was confident the hometown guys in red had red wings osgoodregrouped and were setting themselves up for another win. But only until the reality kicked in of what can happen when you play a rookie goaltender with no experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In this case it was a 4-2 loss on home ice.

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard had a strong regular season ending 4th in the NHL in save percentage with .924 and 5th in GAA (2.26) but the during these playoffs, the youngster has looked lost several times with his back completely turned to the play. During that time he has given up 3, 4, and 4 goals in the first three games of the series and has his heavily-favored team in a hole.

In all, the 11 goals Howard has allowed to Phoenix in the first three games of the series marks only the fourth time in 45 series since the Wings playoff streak began in 1991 that a Wings goalie has allowed 11 goals in the first three games.

After Howard let in two softies in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Coyotes, he put the Red Wings dynasty in the challenging position of needing to win 3 out of the next 4 games to advance, and two of those games are on enemy ice.

While this rookie display of goaltending has been going on, a seasoned goaltender who has been through it all has been sitting on the Red Wing bench watching, occupying a spot he has grown way too familiar with this season.

Chris Osgood has his name engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail after winning several Stanley Cups and was actually a lot of people’s vote for the Conn Smythe MVP two years ago when the Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Red Wings would be trying to 3-peat this year if they would have given Ozzie a little more offensive support going down the stretch in last year’s finals when they lost Game 7 to the Penguins, no fault of the goaltender’s.

So when does Mike Babcock hand the reins back to Ozzie?

Now!

Without another second ticking off the clock, let the veteran Osgood know to start emotionally preparing to step between the pipes when these two teams meet again on Tuesday night.

Coach Babcock received praise for a quick roster move after Game One of this series but it’s time for this more important move. If the Red Wings want any chance of gaining the three wins they need to advance and doing it with less bumps in the road before entering the next tougher series, Babcock needs to make that move now.

It isn’t time to panic because the Red Wings are the most disciplined team as far as sticking to a plan and getting the job done; as long as their goalie gives them a chance to win. But if they need to score 4 or 5 goals every night during these playoffs, they may as well start dusting off their golf clubs right now.

This wouldn’t be the first time Ozzie bailed out the Red Wings after being benched. In 2008 when the Nashville Predators battled back to tie the opening round series at two games apiece, Dominick Hasek was pulled during Game 4 in favor of Osgood and that was the turning point of the series and playoffs.

Osgood won that series and went on to lead his Red Wings to another Stanley Cup title. In those finals, Osgood started the series with spectacular back-to-back shutouts giving his team a 2-0 advantage, one Sidney Crosby and the Penguins could never overcome.

Howard is young and looks like he may possibly be the goalie of the future for the Red Wings but the rookie has put his team in the position where they would have needed 5 goals to win on Sunday. They actually needed that same number to take game two. In that game the Wings scored 7 so earned the victory but a pattern like this is one that will surely send any team to the golf course early in mid-April.

Osgood has made himself available to the rookie for guidance but the bottom line is winning. 

I can hear the chants echoing throughout The Joe already . . . Ozzie. Ozzie! Ozzie!!

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