It's been said that if you have two starting goaltenders, you don't really have any. That might not be true if you happen to be Team Canada and have Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo on your side. But if you're the Detroit Red Wings and your options are Chris Osgood or an elderly Dominik Hasek, it may be so.
Of course, the point of this blog isn't about speculation of who will be starting in net for Detroit when the playoffs begin; barring injury or a horrific slump, Babcock has made it clear that Hasek will start Game 1. It's more like a discussion of the merits of each, from someone who has watched the Wings faithfully this year, and every year since the mid-90s.
This of course reflects my opinion only, which is at the very least contestable (and full disclosure: I have been an irrationally huge Chris Osgood fan for over a decade).
In general, both goalies have been good. Their records are almost identical: As of Tuesday morning, March 18, Osgood is 25-9-3 in 39 games and Hasek is 22-9-3 in 35 games. Both have a sparkling GAA: Osgood's 2.07 leads the league, while Hasek's 2.18 puts him in 5th. In terms of save percentage, The Wizard's lead is a little bigger: an above-average .916 compared to a pedestrian .899 for the Dominator.
Both men have backstopped the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup: Hasek in 2002, Osgood in 1998.
At 43, Hasek is probably the more likely of the two to wear down during the stretch, at 35, Osgood is no young man himself. But since the two have mostly split the games for the Wings this season, both should have plenty left in the tank for a deep playoff run.
THE CASE FOR DOMINIK HASEK:
Despite inferior overall statistics, Hasek has been the better of the two keepers since the all-star break, although he was fortunate enough to miss a good part of Detroit's injury-riddled February with his own health-related malady. He's also shown flashes of his old self, periodically, throughout the season. No one will confuse for the Vezina-winning human slinky he once was, but it's clear that Hasek still has the ability to make big-time, highlight-reel saves. He makes more big saves than Ozzie does and he can still steal games from time to time. His "A" game is better than Chris Osgood's "A" game, and although he's a little more erratic, it takes great goaltending to win in the playoffs. Hasek, at his best, is still capable of great goaltending; Chris Osgood, at his best, still can't match what a happy, streaking Dominik Hasek can do.
THE CASE FOR CHRIS OSGOOD:
Statistically speaking, Ozzie has been better all season. He got off to a hot start when Hasek was injured, and although The Wizard's post-all-star play hasn't exactly been magical (a true statement for nearly everyone on the team), he's been good. His GAA rank is still where it's been all season (1st), and his Sv% puts him in the same class with many very good goaltenders -- and ahead of some great ones, including Miikka Kiprusoff, Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist. He's also been steadier than his counterpart: notorious for his streakiness and slow returns to form from offseason and injury, the 43-year-old Hasek's "bad" has been much worse than Osgood's "bad"; Hasek also makes more bad decisions and allows more ugly goals than the more consistent Osgood. Osgood has had his share of bad outings, but he usually rebounds from them, following up with good outings.
What it all boils down to, of course, is who gives Detroit the better chance to win? With a goaltender as erratic as Dominik Hasek, that question can be very difficult to answer. As a huge Chris Osgood fan who has seen a comeback year from a favorite player (and another year from an aging former superstar clearly on the decline), and looking at the numbers (not the least of which is age: 35 to 43), my heart wants to say Ozzie deserves the nod. But, I can't overlook the fact that, when he's in the zone, Dominik Hasek is simply the better goalie. So, against my insticts, I basically arrive where Babcock likely has already arrived: give Hasek the starts, try to get him as hot as possible, and see how far he'll go. But at the first sign of trouble, I wouldn't hesitate to hand the reigns over to Osgood. It happened to JS Giguere last year, and to Cam Ward the year before that. I believe it can happen for Osgood and the Red Wings in 2008.