Hall debate for Chris Osgood: a no-brainer

In the end, Chris Osgood's 400th NHL win was a lot like his career: It took a little longer than he thought it might, and when it came, it was anything but easy.

"To me, I should have been there way sooner," the Detroit Red Wings netminder told ESPN.com on Tuesday, a day after achieving the milestone with 46 saves in a 4-3 overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Well, if you're going to pass a milestone that only nine other netminders in the history of the NHL have broached, it might as well be busy, right?

"Actually, I would have taken a 16-shot one, that's for sure," Osgood joked.

The debate over Osgood's place in the pantheon of the game's greatest goaltenders is not new, but the 400-win plateau will bring the discussion into much sharper focus. Osgood now breathes rarefied air when discussing the game's most successful goaltenders.

From our vantage point, it is a no-brainer.

When you take a look at the other nine netminders who have hit the 400-win mark, six are already in the Hockey Hall of Fame (Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Grant Fuhr). Martin Brodeur, the winningest goaltender of all time, is a lock, while Ed Belfour is considered a good Hall bet next year in his first year of eligibility. Curtis Joseph is fourth all-time with 454 wins but never won a Cup.

That leaves Osgood, who has 400 wins and owns three Stanley Cup rings. In the spring of 2009, he was one win from a fourth when the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Wings 2-1 in Game 7 in Detroit.

He has never been as flashy or flamboyant as many of those in the 400 club, but how does not smashing up television sets in coaches' offices, etc., stand as a mark against a person?

Does Osgood think about the Hall of Fame, his place in the game?

"Of course I do," he said. "You've kind of proven that you belong there, and you want to get there. It's right there in front of me."

One of the great things about Osgood as he has matured is his forthrightness. This isn't about getting the respect he's earned or validating his career or righting old wrongs, real or perceived. It is about a goaltender who is comfortable in his own skin and is also fully aware of what he has accomplished and what he believes he is due.

"I definitely want to get there," he said. "I think I should. It's not easy being a goaltender in this league for as long as I have. You have to go out there and perform. The numbers are the numbers; at the end of the day, they don't lie."

How significant was that 400th win? After beating New Jersey to get to 399 on Dec. 11, Osgood waited eight days to get a shot at 400 and admitted to going places he rarely goes mentally. During his next start against Dallas, he found himself thinking about the moment, about getting to the magic 400. The Stars tied the game late, then won it in overtime.

"I was thinking about it. Not enough to freeze you up," he admitted. "I'd never done that, ever."

The 38-year-old lost his next start against St. Louis and said he felt anxious -- a strange feeling for a netminder who has prided himself on simply playing the game regardless of the buzzing that went on around it, positive or negative.

"I started worrying about if it was going to happen," Osgood said.

Earlier this season, Osgood had battled a groin injury and started fretting about what would happen if he got hurt again. When would he get another chance? What would happen if he ended up with 399 wins, one short?

"Really, most of the things I was thinking about were kind of ridiculous," he said.

By the time he got around to facing off against rival Colorado on Tuesday night, he put that all away.

"It was probably good that I got a lot of shots. I just played, even when they tied it up," Osgood said.

The Avs did everything they could to spoil Osgood's assault on the record book. They took 23 shots in the second period, and he stopped them all. His 46 saves were a career high. And when Niklas Kronwall ended the game at 3:42 of overtime, Osgood had his milestone.

"I was relieved afterwards," he said. "I didn't really know how to act."

The team stayed in Denver that night, so there was some time to snap some pictures of his teammates and celebrate. Not that he's done with the wins. He is just three wins behind Fuhr and seven behind Hall.

"I wouldn't mind getting a lot more wins," Osgood said.

Spoken like a true Hall of Famer.