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Should Kolzig be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?


Should Kolzig be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Olaf Kolzig is one of the all-time greats in Capitals' history, but was his career worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame?

In an article published on Tuesday, Joe McDonald asked that very question. Though McDonald presents a lengthy argument in favor of Kolzig, he ultimately rules against it saying "one unsuccessful trip the Stanley Cup finals and one Vezina Trophy isn’t enough to get in."

The ESPN panel voted against Kolzig getting in. Are they right? Let's 'try' to take the Caps-colored glasses off and evaluate him objectively.

Kolzig certainly has earned consideration at the very least. Over an NHL career that spanned 17 seasons, Kolzig won a Vezina Trophy for the league's top goalie in 2000 and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contribution in 2006. He played in two All-Star games and was named on the first NHL All-Star team for the 1999-00 season.

Kolzig also represented Germany in several international tournaments including two Winter Olympics. That is relevant for this discussion as the Hockey Hall of Fame considers "Playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team or teams and to the game of hockey in general." Consideration is not limited only to NHL accomplishments.

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But how does Kolzig stack up to other Hall of Fame goaltenders?

Comparing goalies of different eras does not paint an accurate picture, so let's look at some of Kolzig's contemporaries.

Three goalies have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 2003:

Patrick Roy

Played from 1984 to 2003
Career save percentage .910, 2.54 GAA
Career postseason save percentage .918, 2.30 GAA
Won 3 Vezina Trophies, 5 William M. Jennings Trophies
Lead the NHL in wins twice, save percentage four times, GAA three times and shutouts three times
Won 4 Stanley Cups

Ed Belfour

Played from 1988 to 2007
Career save percentage .906, 2.50 GAA
Career postseason save percentage .920, 2.17 GAA
Won the Calder Memorial Trophy, 2 Vezina Trophies, 4 William M. Jennings Trophies
Lead the NHL in wins once, save percentage twice, GAA twice and shutouts four times
Won one Stanley Cup

Dominik Hasek

Played from 1990 to 2008
Career save percentage .922, 2.20 GAA
Career postseason save percentage .925, 2.02 GAA
Won 6 Vezina Trophies, 3 William M. Jennings Trophies, 2 Ted Lindsay Awards, 2 Hart Memorial Trophies
Lead the NHL in wins once, save percentage six times, GAA twice and shutouts four times
Won 2 Stanley Cups

Olaf Kolzig

Played from 1989 to 2009
Career save percentage .906, 2.71 GAA
Career postseason save percentage .927, 2.14 GAA
Won 1 Vezina Trophy, 1 King Clancy Memorial Trophy
Did not win a Stanley Cup

McDonald writes:

To win a Stanley Cup championship, a team needs a solid goaltender. The majority of all great Cup teams had a solid backstop between the pipes. There are examples of the “one-hit wonders” who helped their team to a title, but the great ones are at their best when it counts the most. Kolzig led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, but the Red Wings swept Washington in four straight.

That's not exactly fair. First, I take issue with the fact that winning a Stanley Cup is somehow a prerequisite for making the Hall of Fame. The best players elevate their teams, yes, but it seems a bit unfair to disqualify a player based on what is ultimately a team accomplishment especially given how much his career numbers improved in the playoffs. Hasek was past his prime when he won his two Stanley Cups and only appeared in four playoff games in his second run.

Second, anyone who watched the Caps during the Kolzig years knows that at times Kolzig was the only player keeping the team competitive. To say Kolzig did not elevate the team because they never won a Stanley Cup is simply incorrect.

The issue for Kolzig is not the team accomplishments, but the individual ones. He has only one Vezina to his name and never led the NHL in wins, save percentage, GAA or shutouts. He ultimately failed to establish himself within the league in the same way that Roy, Belfour and Hasek did during the same era.

Can you make an argument that Kolzig's charity work off the ice pushes him to the HOF threshold? He is after all the only one of the four listed above to receive the King Clancy Memorial Trophy awarded for leadership and humanitarian contributions.

While Kolzig was always very active within the community throughout his career, the main factor is still on-ice play. Kolzig was always great, but he never rose to what I would consider Hall of Fame great.

Kolzig certainly should be recognized and celebrated for what he accomplished in Washington, but even when you take Stanley Cups out of it, Kolzig's resume unfortunately just does not stack up.

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Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."


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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.