Facing a crisis of confidence with their goaltending, the Detroit Red Wings will hope to regain momentum in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarter-final with the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m. ET, CBC-TV, CBCSports.ca).
The Predators have climbed right back into the series with a barrage of goals against netminder Dominik Hasek, prompting Detroit head coach Mike Babcock to make a switch to Chris Osgood for Game 5.
Nicknamed the Dominator, Hasek was anything but in allowing two third-period goals in nine seconds to lose the lead in Game 3. Hasek was even shakier in Game 4, surrendering two weak first-period goals in less than a minute.
The move to Osgood can be viewed more as a luxury than a panic move on the part of Detroit, as both goaltenders put up nearly identical numbers for the President's Trophy-winning Red Wings during the regular season.
Osgood posted a regular season record of 27-9-4 with a goals against average (GAA) of 2.09 with a save percentage of .914. Hasek, by contrast, went 27-10-3 with a GAA of 2.14 and a .902 save percentage for Detroit.
"I know I can do the job," said Osgood, speaking coyly about his role before Hasek broke the news. "I'm 100 per cent ready."
After Osgood stopped all 13 shots he faced in replacement of Hasek in Wednesday's 3-2 loss, the decision was an easy one for Babcock.
"The bottom line is we've done this all year long,'' Babcock said. "Ozzie's [Osgood's] been very very good for us. I thought Ozzie played well [on Wednesday], so that's what we're doing.
"We told Dom to get out on the ice and get some work [at practice], get your game back. We plan on having a long run, so be ready.''
If Nashville thinks they've exposed some sort of crack in the façade of the mighty Red Wings, head coach Barry Trotz isn't admitting it.
"In any series, the main goal is to try to get to the goaltender,'' Trotz said. "We were fortunate … [But] we know they've got two good goaltenders, just like we do. It will still be tough to score on the Wings.''
Predators hope to solve road woes
Nashville may have momentum in the series, but it may not be enough to overcome history.
The Predators have gone 0-9 outside of Nashville all-time in the playoffs, with Detroit handing them five of those losses.
"We talked about that," Trotz said. "If we're going to win this series, we have to win one at the Joe. "We're not intimidated by that."
Perhaps they should be. The Red Wings dominated at Joe Louis Arena in the regular season (29-9-3), and despite their puck-stopping problems, they remained confident in their ability to bounce back at home.
"We've got the best home record in the NHL and we're playing at home,'' Babcock said. "We've got a good hockey team. We've got to play."
But in a pivotal game that will see one team move to the cusp of the second round, the Predators are instead choosing to focus on the task at hand.
"Whoever wins is going to have a big advantage in the series," Nashville centre David Legwand said on Thursday. "It's a best two out of three right now. Just puts all the pressure on tomorrow's game."