Who's No. 1?
After a battle that took a couple seasons, Olie Kolzig wrested the Capitals' No. 1 goaltending job from Jon Casey and Bill Ranford in 1997-98 and went 33-18 with a 2.20 goals-against average en route to a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. “Olie The Goalie’s” tenure as a No. 1 goalie with one team is exceeded only by New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. He's been a First Team All Star, a Vezina Trophy winner and the NHL's humanitarian of the year (King Clancy Trophy). If you could have dinner with any four people who ever lived ...
We mention the nickname because Kolzig was hyped that way when he became one of the NHL's hottest stars. A better nickname would be “Kolzig the net filler.” He's 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds and there are nights you can't put a pea past him sideways. But he's 37 and played only 54 games last season due to knee problems. He's had three-straight losing seasons and no one really knows if he still has the ability to carry a team deep into the playoffs.
Brent Johnson, picked up off waivers in 2005, has been a suitable backup. He's 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds with strong arms and hands. Johnson is a hockey insider. His grandfather, Sid Abel, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Johnson rose to No. 1 goaltender early in this decade with the St. Louis Blues. He posted good records over two seasons, but a couple of shocking playoff defeats ended his tenure there. He had chances with Phoenix and Vancouver and has gone 15-27-8 in two seasons with Washington.
Kolzig and Johnson get along well. There's good chemistry in the dressing room. They've been the perfect caretakers for a team that knew it would go through growing pains with young players. They have good character. No one knows whether, in a contending situation, if they are as good as they once were.
In the Wings
Frederic Cassivi -- The 32-year-old veteran is a legendary AHL goaltender who has won two Calder Cups and went to the finals again this year. He has won 212 of his 455 AHL regular-season games and has an incredible 45-29 record in Calder Cup Playoff games. His wife is from central Pennsylvania and he's helped several NHL organizations groom goalies in the minor leagues, including Johnson, years ago. Another guy who is comfortable in his own skin. He has been a pro since 1995 and is 3-6-1 in 13 NHL games. He's 2 1/2 hours from Washington if they need him.
Darren Machesney -- A fifth-round pick in 2005, Machesney will compete with Cassivi at Hershey. He split the season between the AHL and the ECHL.
Simeon Varlamov -- The 23rd-overall pick of the 2006 Entry Draft went 15-7-6 for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in Russia’s top professional league, posting a 2.12 goals-against average in 31 games. He allowed just 64 goals in 1,810 minutes played. He was outstanding at the 2007 World Junior Championship. He's in training camp after signing an NHL contract this summer. Where he'll play will be determined by his performance.
Michal Neuvirth -- The Caps’ second-round pick, 34th overall, in 2006, he's tall, boyishly thin, and skilled. He'll likely return to the OHL Plymouth Whalers. Either Varlamov or Neuvirth is the No. 1 goalie of the future, just not now.