By CEAN BURGESON
I’ll be the first one to admit when I’m wrong, and I had some doubts about a few of the Red Wings’ acquisitions this season. The first one I’m referring to was the pickup of on-again, off-again Red Wing, and former retiree Dominik Hasek.
I said earlier in the year that this was a gamble, so I’m not saying I was wrong. It was a gamble — one that fortunately paid off for Ken Holland, Mike Babcock, and the rest of the Wings. The reason it worked was because Hasek was deftly platooned with Chris Osgood, keeping him healthy and rested for the entire season.
Hasek even ended up playing more games than Babcock had originally projected — somewhere around 40 or 45, putting in over 55 games this year. His stats are good, too: 37 wins, 11 losses, and 6 overtime losses (which can be blamed more on weak overtime play by the Wings skaters than on the goaltending), and a league-leading 2.08 goals against average.
If he continues to perform, (knock on wood), he should prove to be formidable in the playoffs. He’s seasoned, and he’s been there before, so Hasek is a good person to have in the crease in the post-season.
Combined with Osgood, who has also made it to the end of the season, and knows the pressure associated, had a good season backing the Dominator up, with 19 games to date, pulling in 10 wins and three losses, and another five lost in OT, and a respectable 2.43 goals against average.
These two should prove to be a one-two punch in the playoffs, as they are arguably the best goalie duo in the NHL. And we all know how important goal-tending is in the post-season.
The other trade I was skeptical of — the 11th hour acquisition of Todd Bertuzzi — has been a most pleasant surprise. Having not played for nine months or so, Bertuzzi came off the bench like a cannon, mixing it up out on the ice, getting physical like we need him to, and raising the level of play for the entire team.
Calder, Markhov and the rest of the Wings seem to be following his cue, raising the level of physical play and adding some more aggressive shifts to the high level of puck handling and control the Wings already possessed — quite a nice package when you put them together.
In his short tenure wearing the red and white winged wheel on his chest, Bertuzzi seems to have fit right in, and is a joy to watch as he shakes off the rust accumulated while he was out with an injury. And to see him and Pavel Datsyuk hit each other with pass after pass on odd man rushes, breakaways, and during pressure play in the scoring zone. It’s almost as if the two had played together all year.
So, as the last four games of the regular season wind down, I will say that I had my doubts, but they were wiped away as I saw the plans of the Red Wings front office come to fruition.
So to Ken Holland, and Mike Babcock, I’m sorry I ever doubted you.
But I still reserve the right to maintain my journalistic skepticism...
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org