DETROIT - Plan B has worked out well for the Red Wings.
The NHL's top regular-season team planned on putting Dominik Hasek in goal during the playoffs and keeping him there.
"Dom is not going to struggle," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said the day before the postseason started, attempting to shoot down a question about the possibility of playing Chris Osgood.
But when Hasek struggled against the Nashville Predators, Babcock benched the six-time Vezina Trophy winner in favor of Osgood during Game 4 of the first round.
So far, Osgood is 13-3 with three shutouts and a 1.45 goals-against-average, helping the Wings get within one win of hoisting the Stanley Cup. They'll get their first of three chances to win their fourth title in 11 years - and 11th in franchise history - tonight at the Joe Louis Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's fun for me when the game starts," Osgood said after the 2-1 win in Pittsburgh Saturday night. "That's my most enjoyable time of the entire playoffs, when I get out there, have my mind free and just play."
Osgood has had to make an average of just 22 saves a game behind a defense led by five-time Norris Trophy-winner Nicklas Lidstrom and backchecking forwards such as Selke Trophy finalists Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
"We're not looking for him to steal games," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "But when it was 1-1 in Game 4, Pittsburgh had a flurry of shots at one point, and Ozzie made the saves ."
Osgood, the Red Wings' starting goalie when they won the Stanley Cup in 1998, has 51 postseason victories with Detroit, breaking Terry Sawchuk's franchise record, and he's another win away from joining the Hall of Famer in another category.
Sawchuk is the only goalie in NHL history to hoist the Stanley Cup at least 10 years apart, winning titles in 1955 and 1967.
Former teammate Steve Yzerman said Osgood is a much better goalie than he was a decade ago.
"Technically, he has improved greatly," said Yzerman, who now works for Holland in the front office. "He stays bigger in the net, he challenges more shots and he plays angles much better." *