- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

ST. PAUL, Minn. There is only so much a goaltender can do, even when one is playing like an All-Star, which the Washington Capitals' Olie Kolzig is these days.
One would think 30 saves in 31 shots would be enough for a goalie to earn a victory. Not so for Kolzig, who through no fault of his own got tagged for a 1-0 loss against the Minnesota Wild last night at the Xcel Energy Center.
The defensive-minded Wild, a battalion of swift-skating Smurfs, were 7-0 this season when taking a lead into the final period before last night. The Caps were 1-7 when trailing going into the last period. So when the Wild took the lead on Pascal Dupuis' second-period goal and maintained it until the intermission, the game virtually was over.
The Caps earned just one out of four possible points on this two-game trip, and the lack of offensive support for Kolzig is the reason the Caps came away with a tie and loss.
With the season nearly one-quarter complete, Kolzig has had only one game that could be called a laugher in which his efforts and those of his teammates provided him with a cushion to operate, That came Nov.9, when Washington had a 4-0 lead against Philadelphia at the start of the third period.
One-goal margins have been the norm; only four times in 18 games have the Caps scored more than two goals pathetic considering the club's offensive talent.
"We don't score many goals," Jaromir Jagr said last night, stating the obvious. "We work so hard [to] score goals but, the case for me, we don't work as a unit. … We don't help each other. [Flying solo] doesn't work any more. We just don't work together. We don't make the easy passes … a lot of stuff.
"I'm not surprised, there's no connection," he continued, using body parts to illustrate. "You cannot fight anybody if you just have strong arms and legs; you have to have the stomach or you can't beat anybody. There is no connection even though the stomach is the most important part of the body. And we don't have the connection. One time only hands work, other time only legs work but the whole body doesn't work."
Washington fell behind seven minutes into the second period on a shot on which Kolzig appeared to hesitate just a split-second, and it cost him. Dupuis shot from the inside edge of the right circle. The puck rose some then dipped just under Kolzig's left elbow and into the net.
Even when the Caps were on power plays, of which they got a few last night as opposed to Friday in Chicago, they showed little urgency in attacking the goal. The team seemed almost satisfied to escape without allowing a shorthanded goal.
The Caps appear to have only one line operating cohesively, the containment unit of Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Mike Grier, but that is to be expected. The checking line knows its objective before the game begins: to shut down the opposition's top line. Any offense it produces and it had eight goals going into last night is a gift that is never refused and usually comes at a time when it is needed.
Other lines are not so lucky. The top line is going through another modification, the addition of Kip Miller as Dainius Zubrus was dropped to the fourth line. This came after Zubrus was moved from first-line center to left wing so second-line center Robert Lang could replace him as Jagr's pivot.
The second line is a work in progress. Last night the versatile Glen Metropolit popped up on the right side, replacing Andreas Salomonsson, who was bumped down to the fourth line with Zubrus and rookie Brian Sutherby. But the talents of two gifted players on the second line, Peter Bondra and Michael Nylander, don't seem to be fully utilized with so many changes.
Defensively, there are new pairs almost nightly as coach Bruce Cassidy tries to find better chemistry. The days when the coach had the luxury of picking from eight candidates to fill six slots are gone. Sylvain Cote has been bought out, and Brendan Witt is hurt. Going into last night the defense had contributed one goal in 17 games. More is needed.
Of Washington's last nine goals, six have come from the Pittsburgh connection Jagr, Lang or Miller and one of the remaining three came from defenseman Sergei Gonchar. That means the rest of the forwards have had two goals in five games.
The only way for the Caps to win under those circumstances is to ask Kolzig to pitch a shutout every night. And these days that may not be enough.


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