Monday, March 17, 2008

A Short Tribute and Summary Facts - Olaf Kolzig's 301 Career Wins

The Caps traveled to Nashville today in preparation for their match-up Tuesday evening with the Western Conference's 9th place Predators today. Taking time to go over a tribute and some facts about "Olie the Goalie's" 18 year and counting professional ice hockey career and his 301 and counting NHL wins seems like a good use of the time at hand. After all it is an "intermission" between yesterday's "most important game of the season for the Caps" and tomorrow's "most important game of the season for the Caps". Much of what will be covered here has been covered in bits and pieces elsewhere since "Godzilla" notched his 300th NHL win on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames at Verizon Center. However, since Mr. Kolzig is only the 23rd Goalie in the 104 year history of the professional hockey in North America to collect 300 or more wins and only the fifth person to do it with a single team, repeating the facts, figures and notations in one place doesn't seem too effusive.

Most accounts of Olaf Kolzig's professional hockey career indicate it started in 1989 when he was drafted in the first round (19th overall) by the Washington Capitals. In truth Kolzig's career started two years prior during the 1987-1988 season when the then 17 year old Kolzig joined North Westminster of the Western Hockey League and played 15 games. For the 1988-89 Season, Olie then went to the Western Hockey League Tri-City Americans who he also played with immediately after being drafted by the Capitals in the 1989 - 1990 season. Today, Olie Kolzig co-owns those same Tri-City Americans with Stu Barnes who played with Olie in Tri-City and Dennis Loman and Bob Tory. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, Olie was big for a goalie when he was drafted and it took him a while to grow into his stature both physically and as a first round pick. He played two unspectacular games for the Caps in the 1989-1990 season and did not earn a victory while compiling a GAA of 6.00 and a save percentage of 0.810. He spent much of the next 3 1/2 seasons in the minors and matured. During the 1993-94 season he was the AHL's Calder Cup MVP (Jack Butterfield Trophy) while he led the Portland Pirates to their first Calder Cup and earned himself a spot in the Pirates Hall of Fame. The following season 1994-95, Olie the Goalie, split his time between the NHL Washington Capitals and Portland. For the 94-95 campaign, Kolzig played 14 games in the NHL and recorded a record of 2-8-2 with a save % of 0.902 and a GAA of 2.49 (fourth among NHL Rookies). Olie's first NHL victory came on 1/27/1995 against the New York Islanders; his second victory came in a 36 save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on 5/2/1995. He also made his NHL playoff debut, earning a 1-0 record in two appearances.

Kolzig spent the next two seasons as Washington's backup goaltender where he needed to work through some focus and temper issues before becoming the Capital's number 1 goalie in the 1997-1998 season. During the next two season's Kolzig's maturation as a number one goalie continued and in fact he posted 33 wins and a 0.920 save percentage in 64 games played in the 97-98 season and a 26 win, 0.900 save percentage in the 98-99 season. His career progress was such that after the 1997-1998 season when in addition to an excellent regular season record he led the Caps through 21 playoff games with a 12-9 record as well as a GAA of 1.95 and a Save % of 0.944 he was talked about as a clearly top tier net minder. He had some regression in the 98-99 season as the pressure of being a star settled in but in the 1999-2000 season he put together, what is arguably, clearly the best year of his career. That season he won the Vezina Trophy the NHL's highest honor for a goaltender, he was the Caps' iron-man playing 73 games and earning a record of 41-20-11 witrh a GAA of 2.24 and a SV% of 0.917.

Kolzig has played a total of 710 games in his career and has an overall record of 301-292-86 with a career GAA of 2.70 and a SV% of 0.906. He reached the 100 win plateau early in the 1999-2000 season on his way to being the NHL's best net minder that year. He reached 200 wins during the 2001-2002 NHL Playoffs. Win number 300 came on March 12, 2008 in a 3-2 victory against the Calgary Flames at home in Verizon Center, a team that played in Atlanta when he entered the league in a building that didn't exist when he entered the league. On that night "Godzilla" was fittingly awarded the game's number 1 star after a 24 save/SV% of 0.923 performance. The game's number 2 star, league leading scorer Alexander Ovechkin, was 4 years old when Olie Kolzig was drafted and 8 years old when he recorded his first NHL victory. The only current playing goalie with similar tenure with his current team, like Kolzig, is another future Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur.

To keep things in perspectives non-hockey minded sports fans can relate to, Olie Kolzig's career and impact with the Capitals rivals analogous efforts in Pro Football like Brett Farve and Darrel Green's careers with the Green Bay Packers and the Redskins. The off-ice and off-field persons of these three gentlemen also has parallels in that all three have been very active in supporting charitable causes and philanthropic activities, especially in their local communities. Olaf Kolzig and his wife Christin have been exceptionally generous and dedicated towards the cause of both Autism Awareness and finding a cure for the disease from which one of their three children, Carson, suffers.

For another great biography and perspective on Olaf Kolzig check out this post on James Mirtle's blog.

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