I'm a stats guy. I think that style doesn't really matter and that flashy play is just a distraction and that the only thing that matters is whether the goalie makes the save or not. I like ranking goalies by their save percentages while ignoring their win totals. And yet there is a guy in the playoffs who has a .930 save percentage for the second year in a row and plays a steady, non-flashy style and by my count is 6 goals above average after adjusting for shot quality, and yet all my eyes keep telling me is that he is combining a well-timed personal hot streak with some fortunate bounces and some great help from his teammates.
I haven't seen every game Chris Osgood has played this playoff season, and I probably haven't seen him at his best. I do find it a little strange that a goalie can get essentially beaten on 5 shots and still get roundly praised and named the player of the game. Surely a portion of last night's first star billing should be shared with Zetterberg and the goal posts.
The shot charts are saying that Osgood is making more hay in these playoffs from not letting in the easy long shots than standing on his head against the tough ones, which makes sense to me. That's not a criticism, obviously you want your goalie to be making the easy saves. Still, given how rare it is that Detroit gets hemmed in their own end, you have to think that most of the time Ozzy is picking cherries on those shots while the guy at the other end of the ice is struggling to see through the backsides of Holmstrom and Franzen. My sense from having worked with some shot quality measures in a little more detail over this playoff season is that there is still room for improvement.
It is interesting to me that Osgood has suddenly gained a reputation as a good playoff goalie. There have even been some comparisons to guys like Billy Smith or Grant Fuhr in the media. In the event that Osgood finishes the job and pulls down the Conn Smythe Trophy, which I think is a pretty good bet to follow a Wings victory given the likely vote splitting among the skaters, I still don't really see how he fits that description. Other than the last couple of playoff seasons, there really isn't much that deserves to be called "good" in Osgood's record - it's pretty much a nice collection of averageness.
Osgood won a Cup in 1998, but he did it while getting maligned (and in my opinion justifiably so) by observers after posting only the 6th best save percentage in the playoffs that year, an unusually low mark for a Cup winner. Even leaving aside the ability of the Red Wings to play defence, one of the benefits of playing on a great team in the playoffs is a lower strength of opposition since you get to meet lower seeds in the first couple of rounds. The pre-lockout version of Osgood pretty obviously fattened his playoff stats on the also-rans before getting chewed up by the elites. I figured 95 points seemed to be a good cutoff to separate the contenders from the rest. Note the disparity:
Opponent below 95 pts: 27-11, 2.01, .917
Opponent above 95 pts: 18-26, 2.45, .905
(For reference's sake, league average in this period is about .915).
Over the last 2 playoff seasons, the Wings and Osgood have dominated all comers equally. I wonder if they don't even have a greater relative advantage now than before because of their excellent management combined with the salary cap-induced parity around the league. We have to keep in mind the point inflation from the shootout when comparing with earlier results, but as of late the combination of Detroit and Osgood hasn't had the same problem of keeping good teams from scoring against them:
Above 95 pts: 18-5, 1.74, .930
Below 95 pts: 10-3, 1.83, .927
Two good playoff runs are two good playoff runs, but I don't imagine I would find much agreement in the general population if I went back in time to March 2008 proclaiming to the world that Osgood was a clutch money goalie. I imagine I would instead get more than a few curious, if not downright sympathic, looks.
I figure we're getting close to the point where I can get a sense of somebody's ability to evaluate goalies by just asking them if they'd rather have Osgood or Luongo in net for their team in a key playoff game. If they say Ozzy, then it's time to smile and move along and save yourself the hassle.
Having said all that, I think Osgood has been pretty good in these playoffs, all things considered and my eyes notwithstanding. That doesn't mean I would wager any money on Osgood having the same success next season, though, in either the regular season or the playoffs. I'm not even sure I'd bet a whole lot on him continuing the same success in game 3. I imagine the Penguins are going to start catching some breaks or making some shots pretty soon. But maybe I'm wrong altogether and Osgood is just that good at stopping pucks / rolling the dice / playing behind Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom. As they say, that's why they play the games.