- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

He wasn’t a dominant scorer like Dennis Maruk or a respected captain like Ryan Walter. He wasn’t an amazing athlete and character like Al Iafrate or a tireless worker like Kelly Miller. All Don Beaupre did was win, especially when it counted most.

Beaupre, who will be honored before tonight’s Washington-Atlanta game at MCI Center as one of the Capitals’ 30 greatest players, was 18-15 in the playoffs — the best record of any goalie during the franchise’s 30 seasons. When Beaupre retired in 1997 with 268 victories, all but three of the 21 goalies with more wins were in the Hall of Fame or had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Beaupre never achieved either, but as he said, “I got the most out of what I had.”

Acquired on the cheap from Minnesota for never-was defenseman Claudio Scremin on Nov.1, 1988, Beaupre spent most of that season in the minors as Clint Malarchuk and Pete Peeters backstopped the Caps to their first Patrick Division title. In June 1989, the Caps used their first two draft picks on goalies Olie Kolzig and Byron Dafoe.

But Beaupre, who had led the underdog North Stars to the Cup finals as a 20-year-old rookie in 1981, refused to be written off. By the fall of 1989, Malarchuk had been traded, Peeters had departed as a free agent and Beaupre was the No.1 goalie as Washington began an unexpected march to its first Eastern Conference finals. He held the job for the next four seasons.

“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night,” Beaupre said from Minneapolis where he owns an aerial equipment firm. “I really liked living in the Washington area. I made a lot of good friends there. And I really came into my own as a goalie in Washington. I played my best hockey for the Caps.”

Although only 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, Beaupre gave the Caps their most consistent goaltending until Kolzig blossomed during the 1998 run to the Cup finals.

Beaupre set Caps records with a 2.64 GAA, five shutouts and an .897 save percentage in 1990-91. He was an NHL All-Star the next season en route to recording 29 victories, also a pre-Kolzig high-water mark. Both of those Aprils ended with playoff losses to eventual champion Pittsburgh, which is why Beaupre looks back at the upset of the Penguins in the 1994 playoffs as even more of a highlight than reaching the conference finals in 1990.

Those 1994 Caps also were eliminated by a Cup winner, the New York Rangers, and Beaupre never played another game for Washington. A labor stoppage canceled the first half of the 1994-95 season. Management decided 20-year-old phenom Jim Carey was ready to man the nets and Beaupre, then 33, was traded to Ottawa for a draft pick on the eve of the season’s delayed start. Beaupre played two years for the Senators and Toronto before spending most of 1996-97 in the minors, a stint that convinced him he was done.

“Donnie played great for us,” Kolzig said. “And he helped teach me how to be a pro.”

Note — The Caps sent prospect Maxime Ouellet to Portland (Maine) of the American Hockey League and recalled fellow rookie goalie Matt Yeats from the Pirates to back up Kolzig.

Yeats, who turns 25 next month, was Los Angeles’ ninth-round choice in the 1998 draft. The Innisfail, Alberta, native starred at the University of Maine before leading Atlantic City to the East Coast Hockey League title as a first-year pro last season. Yeats is 2-1-1 with a 2.17 GAA, a .928 save percentage and one shutout in seven games for Portland. Yeats likely will make his debut against the Thrashers or New York Islanders next week.

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