- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson doesn't feel this is "a doomed season." Neither does goalie Olie Kolzig. And both agree on another topic defense, and if the Caps don't play it first and foremost, they're going nowhere.
"If there are guys in this room who are complacent with where we're at, then they don't deserve to have the uniform on," Kolzig said yesterday. "You've got to feel a little of, ah, I won't go so far as embarrassment but …"
Kolzig probably does. Here is a man who won the Vezina Trophy just two seasons ago and now has very un-Kolzig-like statistics such as a 2.91 goals-against and a saves percentage barely above .900. Thirty-eight goalies in the league were rated ahead of him yesterday.
The Caps are floundering in their own red ink from minus defensive ratings. They have lost six of their last seven and tonight play St. Louis, a team which has lost two straight by one goal after winning a franchise-record 10 in a row.
"We've got to find a way to play our best game of the season [tonight]," said Kolzig, admitting up front that better play could start with himself but that every player on the team could do with a little self-examination followed by improvement.
"A goaltender's job is to stop the puck but you also need a little help from the guys in front," Kolzig said. "Sometimes there's chances where rebounds weren't cleared or guys missed assignments in front so as a goalie you try to keep your sanity by not putting undue blame on yourself."
Injuries have been a significant factor this season, especially to the club's overall defensive posture, but Kolzig thinks that's when teams usually get better about concentrating on defense, not more porous.
"We've had some unfortunate injuries but so have a lot of other teams," he said. "I don't think injuries prevent [healthy] people from playing defense; you concentrate on defense even more when you have injuries. We've gone stretches where we've played great, showed signs of playing the way we played two years ago and were successful doing it.
"For some reason we've reverted to the way we've played for the most part this year. As a result we lost three points this week alone we should have had against Montreal with the lead late in the third period and definitely against Buffalo. I've said this a couple weeks ago, since Christmas I've felt we were in a desperate situation as far as the playoffs were concerned. We had great opportunities to get back into it against teams like Montreal and Buffalo. You're not going to get anywhere if you don't beat teams you need to beat to eliminate them from the playoffs."
The Caps have 28 games left and Kolzig is going to play the vast majority of them as long as Washington has a faint chance to make postseason.
"You have to go with your No. 1 goalie in the situation we're in," said Wilson, "and Olie's playing well. He's not tired; we gave him the rest he needed by skipping a few practices and missing a couple games. The cortisone shot has helped his [bruised] ankle. We had a few of those games that were relatively easy for him when we used the three-defenseman system, that got his confidence back in a hurry and he's played great since then."
Back-to-back shutouts and a few games later facing a 47-shot barrage. It's not hard to imagine which system Kolzig prefers.

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