The Top Five Washington Capitals Goalies

(Tom Turk/THW)

Goaltender has been the weakest position for the Capitals over the course of their existence.  The team has generated Hall of Fame forwards and defenceman. Lamentably, no netminder of superior quality has been drafted by the organization nor has one been brought into the fold via trade. It is that very deficiency that has cost them chances at the Stanley Cup. Having said that, there have been some flashes of brilliance. And the top player on this list is one of the most loved Caps of all time.

#5- Pete Peeters

Pete is a study in stark contrasts. His streaky play defined his career. He was drafted by the Flyers in 77 and began regular play in the 79-80 season. He immediately racked up wins. Peeters and the Flyers went all the way to the Finals before succumbing to the Islander dynasty. In subsequent seasons he did not live up to the expectations he had set in his rookie year and he was traded to Boston. Then a funny thing happened. In the 82-83 season he won the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the league. He nearly won the Hart. Just like in Philadelphia, however, his play lagged in the next couple of seasons. In the midst of the 85-86 season he came to D.C. While he did not soar to lofty heights in the red, white and blue he did level out and give Washington solid seasons of reliable goaltending. He won 70 of 139 games as a Cap and had a 3.06 GAA. In his career he appeared in 4 All-Star games.

A well-known moment I am sure Peeters wishes never happened:

#4- Jim Carey

Carey is among a brotherhood of goalies who burned brightly and faded quickly. He was drafted by the Caps in 92 and began regular play during the shortened 94-95 season. His impact was profound. He won 18 of 28 games, 6 of them shutouts. Jim was this smiling kid, not old enough to drink, and he stood confidently in net making saves he had no business making. That brief season’s results earned him the starting role for the following campaign over players who had been groomed for the role for years. He merely delivered a Vezina Trophy winning performance. Carey won 35 of 71 games with a GAA of 2.26 and a SV % of .906. The very next season the shine left his rising star. He looked lost in net and made truly rookie mistakes. Mid-season he was traded away to Boston in a six-player deal for veteran netminder Bill Ranford. His stock continued to plummet and soon he was out of the league. But for one shining moment he was the hottest thing in the league. As a Cap he won 70 of 139 games, had a 2.37 GAA and a .904 SV %.

Carey lets in a few softies in the first couple of minutes. A great clip all around if you have time to watch it all.:

#3- Al Jensen & Pat Riggin

I hope you’ll forgive me for this bit of trickery, but I think you’ll agree that listing these men together makes sense. Al Jensen came to the Caps in 81 to play in a back up role after having played in but one game for the Detroit Red Wings. Pat Riggin had been a part of a goaltending trio in Calgary prior to being traded to the Caps in 82. Over the next few seasons they developed as a very successful tandem. Rod Langway had just arrived and was leading a revolution. Jensen and Riggin provided a level of netminding that had not yet been seen in D.C. Riggin was nominally the starter at the beginning of the 83-84 season. A poor initial showing saw Jensen get the nod. He performed at an All-Star level. Unfortunately for him, he hurt his back lifting weights and Riggin was again starting. In the end, it was the Caps who benefited because the pair won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against in the league. That’s something that seemed unbelievable in the days of Bernie Wolfe and Ron Low. Riggin maintained his role as starter for the next season, winning 28 games. Jensen took over the role prior to the playoffs as Pat was too sick to play. They continued this relationship for a couple of more seasons before circumstances demanded change. Riggin was traded to Boston for Pete Peeters. Jensen went to LA in exchange for defenceman Gary Galley. As a Cap Al Jensen won 94 of 173 games and had a 3.26 GAA. Riggin won 67 of 143 with a GAA of 3.02.

Here they are mean-mugging with their Flyer counterparts:

#2- Don Beaupre

Beaupre entered the league as a draft pick of the North Stars in 1980. His rookie year was almost ideal. He made the All-Star team and helped Minnesota win the Norris Division. Like Pete Peeters, he ran into the Islanders in the Cup Finals. He then toiled for seven seasons on mediocre teams before being sent to the minors and placed on the waiver wire. This upset the veteran netminder and her demanded a trade. Washington picked him up, but they had no immediate place for Don as Peeters was their starter at the time and they had recently acquired Clint Malarchuk in the deal that brought Dale Hunter to D.C. In short order Peeters was back in Philly and Malarchuk was shipped off to Buffalo to bring Calle Johansson into the fold. This gave Beaupre a chance to play behind the best defense of his career. His game went to the next level in the same way Riggin and Jensen experienced. He benefited from the defense-first style of play instilled by captain Rod Langway and excecuted by defenceman and forward alike. He played in his first All-Star game since his rookie season and set Capitals records that would stand until the number one entry on this list came into his own. In the parts of five seasons he spent as a Cap he won 128 of 269 games played. He had a 3.05 GAA and a .886 SV %.

Beaupre was a large man who played the stand up style. Yet he could still move laterally fairly well. Here is a clip of him at the end of his career stopping Gretzky and Hull:

#1- Olaf Kolzig

“Olie the Goalie” is the greatest netminder to play in the nation’s capital. Kolzig was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in Canada. In this regard he shares a similarity with Rod Langway who was born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in America. He was taken by the Caps in the 89 draft. Unlike many top prospects, he spent eight years in the minor league system before starting regular play with the parent club. His farm team play was exemplary, winning the Calder Cup in 94 as well as the equivalent of the Jennings that same year. Having a stable of ready young goaltenders, the Caps traded Beaupre to expansion team Ottawa and opened the position for competition. Kolzig and Rick Tabaracci played tandem. Kolzig was a bit immature, deflecting shots into the stands for fun whenever he could. He earned a reputation as a hot dog; a show off who didn’t take things very seriously. When Jim Carey came in and took over the starting role things weren’t looking good for Olie. Perhaps that’s what got him to focus. Once the magic had left Carey’s glove, vet Bill Ranford started between the pipes. Ranford was injured during the opening game of the 97-98 season. Kolzig stepped in and never looked back. He led them to the Stanley Cup Finals with truly heroic performances in which the Caps were out-shot 3-1 on a regular basis. For the 99-00 season he  won the Vezina Trophy for his exemplary performance. That campaign he won 41 of 73 games played with a 2.24 GAA and a .917 SV %.

Kolzig was an iron man in net. He regularly played 60+ games per season. He also became active in the D.C. community, winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 06. His final season with the Caps ended poorly. He was in the twilight of his career and a youth-oriented team looked to be energized. Washington brought in Cristobal Huet to take a run at the playoffs at the end of the 07-08 season. Huet was dynamic, yet the Caps failed to go deep in the post season. Kolzig felt he deserved a chance to play ahead of the hired gun and decided to sign with Tampa in the off-season. It was short-lived. He played only 8 games for the Lightning. He has reconciled with the Caps and is currently an associate goaltending coach. Over his stellar 14 season career he played a marathonl 711 games in goal for Washington. He won 301 games, recorded 35 shutouts, earned a 2.70 GAA and  a .906 SV %.  Olie holds almost every goaltending record for the Capitals. He represented the Caps in 2 All Star games. Kolzig remains beloved and I am certain his number will be retired.

The man known as Godzilla:

He was funny too:

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1 thought on “The Top Five Washington Capitals Goalies”

  1. Alot of short term brilliance on this list, probably in part whats hurt the franchise from succeeding. Bob Mason wasnt a bad goalie, and I seem to remember Gary Inness in the early years looking like the saviour-only to falter fairly quickly. Olie is definately the #1

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