- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Olie Kolzig went into last night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at MCI Center looking for his 200th career victory in goal for the Washington Capitals.
He went into the Rangers game a week ago looking for his 200th victory. He went into Friday's game against Toronto looking for his 200th victory. He didn't play in Saturday night's game against Ottawa. He went into Monday afternoon's game against Boston looking for his 200th win.
You don't need a puck to hit you in the head to get the picture here, do you? This was getting old.
Olie Kolzig had been stuck at 199 since he was in the net for a 4-3 win over the Islanders on Jan.13. He finally became unstuck last night with No.200, a 5-3 win over the Hurricanes. It didn't come easy, though. Kolzig nearly didn't get a chance to enjoy it after taking a shot on his left collarbone from a puck at about 10:46 in the second period from Kevyn Adams and crumbling to the ice. But as the crowd chanted, "Olie, Olie," Kolzig got up after several minutes of kneeling on the ice and stayed in the game. Then the Caps nearly blew a 4-1 lead with less than six minutes left before recovering to get the win.
"It was eventually going to happen," Kolzig said. "If I was going to be stuck at 199 the rest of my career, then I would have been bought out after this season. That was something that was going to happen. I was more concerned about getting off the winless skid that we were on. We made it interesting again, but the bottom line is that we won the game."
If there was any pressure weighing on Kolzig to get No.200 over and done, it should have been welcomed weight. After all, there was a time when Kolzig would have gladly accepted one NHL win in goal.
Kolzig's early days for the Caps, spending most of his time in the minors, illustrates how far he has come in his career with this organization. During the 1989-1990 season, the same year the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kolzig was picked 19th in the first round of the entry draft, Kolzig went 0-2 in two games. Three years later, he failed to score a victory in his only appearance during the 1992-1993 season. The following year, in seven games, Kolzig had an 0-3 mark.
It wasn't until his Jan.27 1995, start nearly eight years before last night's game that Kolzig finally got his first win, coming against the Islanders. And it hardly opened up the floodgates for Kolzig. He was in and out as a starter after that more out than in and by the end of the 1996-97 season, Kolzig had an NHL record of 14-36-8.
At that point, it didn't seem like Kolzig would play in 200 games over his NHL career, let alone get 200 wins.
But on Oct.1, 1997, in Toronto the first game of the season Washington starting goalie Bill Ranford got hurt in the first period against the Maple Leafs, and Kolzig took his place in the net and never went back to backup goalie. Getting his intensity under control, Kolzig emerged as the leader of a Caps team that went farther than any other in franchise history, all the way to the Stanley Cup finals against Detroit, largely riding on the shoulders of Kolzig's goaltending.
Since he took his place as the Caps' starting goalie, the 32-year-old Kolzig has a record of 186-137-40; has set nearly every significant goalie record in franchise history and won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie three years ago.
But his presence goes beyond the ice. He is a force in the dressing room as well, a vocal team leader who has the ear and the respect of his teammates. And, ironically, for a player who wears a mask when he is on the ice, Kolzig has become the face of the Washington Capitals probably the most recognized player in the community, even with the addition of Jaromir Jagr. He has been accessible to both media and fans, and is heavily involved in charitable and community affairs.
"He epitomizes a Washington Capital," Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He's concerned about what goes on in the room, about team morale, about building the team all those things and more. He's a complete team player."
He is the best goalie the Caps have ever had, and the fortunes of this team still ride on the shoulders of Kolzig.
"He gives us a chance to win every game, and he wins games for us," Cassidy said.
Kolzig won one for them last night a well-deserved milestone victory for a hockey player who, over the course of those 200 wins, has become the heart and soul of this franchise.

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