Last Friday night the Capitals were outplayed again. Nevertheless
they were victorious again. That win, 3-0 over the Senators,
vaulted Washington into the Eastern Conference finals. The Caps,
who have been outshot by an average of 37-23 in their 11
postseason games, seemingly have adopted the philosophy, Let 'em
shoot, we know Olie's back there. Goalie Olaf Kolzig has a
scoreless streak of 149:06 and a league-best .951 save
percentage in the postseason. "If it wasn't for him, we'd be
golfing right now," says defenseman Brendan Witt.
Kolzig is stopping pucks so deftly that he seems entranced.
Shortly after making a mitt save on Ottawa's Alexei Yashin in
the Capitals' 2-0 win in Game 4, Kolzig asked reporters, "Did
that slide under me, or did I get that with my glove?"
Kolzig has been a playoff beast, with a .951 save percentage.
The 28-year-old Kolzig, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa,
who was raised in Canada, was Washington's first-round draft
choice in 1989, but he didn't get his chance to start regularly
until No. 1 netminder Bill Ranford suffered a groin injury in
the 1997-98 season opener. Ranford was supposed to be sidelined
for 10 days, but Kolzig's playhe finished the regular season
33-18-10 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .920 save
percentagerelegated Ranford to the backup role.
Part of the reason Kolzig, who is 6'3", 225 pounds and nicknamed
Godzilla, is only blossoming at a relatively advanced age is his
temper. He was labeled Snap-Olie in the minors because he
sometimes smashed his stick on the crossbar after surrendering a
goalin practice. One of his most compelling characteristics
remains his aggressiveness. Selected to the All-Star Game in
January, Kolzig appeared in the breakaway skills competition and
betrayed no awe of his surroundings by racing from the pipes to
intercept oncoming snipers. "I've calmed down a lot," says
Kolzig, "but I play with confidence."
The way he played against Ottawa left some Senators calling him
the pretender to the NHL's goaltending throne. Says Ottawa
goalie Ron Tugnutt of Kolzig's impending showdown with Sabres'
all-world backstop Dominik Hasek, "I think every game is going
to be 0-0."
Issue date: May 25, 1998