Friday, April 18, 2008

Panic? No, Babcock Just Coaching For The Moment

I just can't seem to read Dominik Hasek correctly. First, I go and write this back in October in my Chicken Little fashion, regarding his slow start. He proved me wrong. Then, on Monday, I write this, scolding myself for my hysteria back in October, declaring that he'll be just fine. Unfortunately, he proved me wrong again. So I give up on trying to figure him out.

Hasek is out, and Chris Osgood is in for Game 5 of this suddenly spooky first-round series with the Nashville Predators. This, after Hasek proved that a Czech in Music City must not be a very good mix; Dom was mediocre in Games 3 and 4.

How dare a coach change goalies during a playoff series! At least, that's what most media types would tell you. They liken it to letting a genie out of a bottle. You can't win Stanley Cups that way, they say. If you have two goalies, that means you don't have one -- trying to borrow from the NFL's supposed creed about quarterbacks. You can read one of the doomsayers here -- the Free Press's resident curmudgeon, Drew Sharp.

But here's the thing: last I checked, nobody's ever won the Cup after losing in the first round. Even the great Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers teams couldn't pull that one off. So that said, I don't blame Red Wings coach Mike Babcock one bit in trying to do what he feels gives his team the best chance to win THIS series. You worry about Round Two when -- and IF -- you get there.

Some of the worriers of this decision wonder what this will do to Hasek's supposed fragile psyche. Well, I think if anyone is qualified to know that answer, it must be his coach, no? If Babcock thinks that won't be an issue, then that's good enough for me.

Look, Babcock is trying to win this series, right now. He's coaching for the moment, with the short-sightedness that is sometimes required in the playoffs. Worrying about one game at a time is cliche, but it's what you need to do, really.

Besides, the wives tale that says you can't win Cups by swapping goalies in and out is a fallacy. Teams HAVE done it. One that comes to mind is the 1972 Boston Bruins, who gave almost 50-50 time to Eddie Johnston and Gerry Cheevers throughout the regular season, then continued the practice in the post-season. Of course, that Bruins team was loaded with offensive talent, so much so that whatever was going on in net was the least of their opponents' worries. Still, it happened, and I don't know why it can't happen again. Where does it say that "thou shall have one netminder throughout the playoffs"?

Osgood may be the guy that gets the Red Wings through this series, but that doesn't mean he starts in the next round. It would seem foolish to change at that point, but it's not etched in stone. I think Babcock is best served by doing what he's doing right now: playing it by ear. Keep Ozzie in net until he falters, then consider another switch. Isn't that why the team bragged about having two formidable goalies on its roster? For situations such as these? Just think if the no. 2 guy was an unproven, fuzzy-faced rookie.

Mike Babcock has a luxury no other coach in the NHL possesses: he has two goalies on his team who have each won a Stanley Cup. He'd be derelict in his duties if he didn't call upon that luxury when he senses things going sideways.

One round at a time, folks.

1 comment:

DaBlade said...

Osgood, while under-worked, looked solid in game 5. I don't believe he will stumble to the point where he loses a game single handedly. I predict Ozzie will be in net for the duration and he wins his second cup for the Wings.