With 4 Cups between them (3 for Ozzie and 1 for Khabby) and enough minutes played to constitute two months, these two netminders are by far the most experienced ones remaining in the playoffs. Are they the best left? No, probably not. But they both get the job done and benefit from good/great defenses in front of them. The...I can't believe I'm gonna say this..."Crafty veterans" have playoff experience and know how to get it done in the big time. With all that behind us, lets take a serious look at the guys in net in this series.
First up: Nikolai Khabibulin.
#39 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Jan 13, 1973
|2008 - Nikolai Khabibulin||42||2467||25||8||7||1||96||2.33||1192||1096||.919||3|
Khabibulin has come through big time in the playoffs thus far for the 'Hawks and is one of the reasons they did so well this year and are 4 wins from the Cup Finals. But let's really take a look at him. In the playoffs thus far, NK has allowed 4 or more goals 4 different times and against teams that have nothing close to the scoring depth that the Wings possess. Khabibulin's posted a 2.76 GAA (rather high) and a relatively low .896 save percentage. Good but not great.
How can he beat the Wings? Keep doing what he's been doing. He's been using his athleticism to his advantage so far and he can recover quickly from a positioning error to make saves. He has a good glove hand and covers the 5-hole well while using that athleticism to make the net smaller. Also, look at any game Jonas Hiller played, especially the OT one.
How can the Wings beat him? Remember that part about positioning errors? Keep that in mind. Khabby at times loses track of the puck around the ice and that can cause him to be a tad late. Also, at times he overcompensates with his athleticism and makes himself even further out of position in the event of a pass back the other way. He also is prone to giving up rebounds, something Jonas Hiller didn't do all that much of. If the Wings go hard to the net with Franzen, Hossa, Holmstrom, and Cleary; they can have success against him.
Next up: Chris Osgood
#30 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Nov 26, 1972
|2008 - Chris Osgood||46||2663||26||9||8||0||137||3.09||1208||1071||.887||2|
Like I've said before, there must be a switch that this guy turns on come playoff time. He has been a monster in net for the Wings and kept them the series against the Ducks in which they couldn't get much going against Hiller. Coming into the playoffs, Ozzie was the target of much criticism and speculation. He's done nothing but prove 'em (me included) wrong en route to the Wings' 3rd straight Conference Finals.
How can the 'Hawks beat him? If Ozzie gets in a rut, things can turn south and turn quickly. The Hawks have the best offense that the Wings will face so far in the postseason and have some great snipers in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. If the Blackhawks test Osgood often they could give him trouble. With the exception of Getzlaf and Perry, Chris hasn't had to face much in terms of real scoring threats. He is prone to the deflection in front of the net (but who isn't ??) and long shots from the point. He is also slow sometimes getting over into position for one-timers and can commit too early to shots at other times.
How can he beat the 'Hawks? Like Khabibulin, just keep on doing what he's doing. There's not much getting into Ozzie's head. The Ducks bumped, jostled, slashed, and "iced" Oz but he didn't back down and didn't allow a loss by more than 1 goal. Of the 11 post season games, Ozzie has had 9 games with 3 or fewer goals; the reason for his stellar 2.06 GAA. Ozzie also benefits from having one of the league's best, if not the best, defenses. On average this postseason, Oz has had to face 12 fewer shots than his opponent. That keeps him fresh and able to make the big save when it needs to be made. He has been great this postseason and I can really only think of 2 goals in the Anaheim series that he messed up on.
So who's got the edge? To me this is a really close one but I think I have to go with Osgood. No, not just because he's the Wings goalie but because he doesn't get rattled, he doesn't get out of position that often, and he can "bait" a player into shooting the puck. By doing this, he's able to control the pace of the game for the Wings and contribute to the way they play offense and the puck possession game.