- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

In just under six full games this season, Washington Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig has faced more shots — 213 — than any of the other 29 teams in the NHL except winless Pittsburgh. And only one of the other clubs has allowed more goals than Kolzig has as an individual, again the Penguins.

Is he over the hill at 35?

Far from it.

Out of shape?

Probably he’s in the best shape in several seasons.

Tired from facing a barrage of rubber?

He can’t wait for the next game.

Nonetheless, Kolzig would appreciate it if his teammates, youngsters and veterans alike, would stop taking penalties (62 in seven games, tops in the league by a good margin) that lead to sudden bursts of extreme pressure and mental and physical fatigue. Now that’s a problem.

“The only time as a goalie you really get tired is when you’re killing off a lot of penalties, like [Sunday] in the first period,” Kolzig said yesterday after practice, “It’s tougher now to clear the zone and get a rest. That’s where you get worn down, if there’s one penalty-kill after another.”

From the 3:39 point of the first against Tampa Bay to the 15-minute mark, the Caps were not at equal strength, six of the eight penalties the team took during Sunday’s game coming within an 11-minute span.

That has been a killer against the Caps as the team has gone 3-4 to open the season, better than a lot of people thought they would do. Washington has been crippled by a never-ending series of penalties that have resulted in 33 goals-against (an average of 4.7), with Kolzig and backup Brent Johnson facing a murderous average of 39 shots every contest.

Coach Glen Hanlon, a former NHL goalie, thinks it will only get worse statistically now that rules have been adopted to open up the game and make it tougher to defend.

“I’ve said all along that it’s not going to be long before you see scores of 7-6, 6-5 and everyone involved is going to ask what’s wrong with your penalty-killing, with your defensive zone coverage,” he said. “But that’s what everyone wanted. Now how do you defend all this? These are the rules that make the game more difficult to defend.”

The main problem facing goalies now is that they can’t see the shooter and therefore can’t see pucks leave sticks. The reason is that the crease now looks like Metro at rush hour, with opponents camped there and defenders trying to defend without drawing another penalty.

“It was tough to move guys in front of the net before; now it’s virtually impossible,” Kolzig said. He said he asked his teammates to “allow me to have that guy [in front] because it’s easier to see around one guy than to look through two if our defense comes in and ties him up.”

Sunday against the Lightning, Kolzig’s skaters put the plan into operation successfully. Shots were still high (40), but the defending Stanley Cup champs scored only twice, and the Caps won in a shootout 3-2.

“It’s exciting and we won, so I’m happier than if we had lost,” Kolzig said.

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