Washington Capitals: Best Goaltenders in Team History
Over the years, the Washington Capitals have had a number of solid goaltenders, though, none have been able to bring home a Stanley Cup during their time in the nation's capital.
Since the franchise joined the NHL in 1974-75, nine different goalies have played in at least 100 games for the organization, but few were able to hold onto the starting spot for a long period of time.
In the last five seasons alone, the Caps have had no less than six goaltenders who have appeared to be the answer in the between the pipes, but none of their options have demonstrated the level of consistency needed to be a starting goalie, especially for a contending team.
Here's a look at the best goaltenders in franchise history.
7. Jose Theodore
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While Jose Theodore's time in Washington was short, he was a very serviceable starting goaltender for the Capitals, at least during the regular season.
Theodore signed to a two-year deal as a free agent in the summer of 2008 and was brought in to be a centerpiece for a team that appeared destined to challenge for the Stanley Cup in the near future.
In 2008-09, the former Hart Trophy winner posted a 32-win campaign, helping the Caps claim their second consecutive Southeast Division championship. However, during the postseason, Theodore lasted just one game before being replaced by talented rookie Semyon Varlamov, who would start every game from there on out.
The following year, Theodore was solid once again during the regular season, notching 30 wins and a respectable .911 save percentage. Unfortunately, he was once again watching from the bench during the playoffs, as he was pulled midway through the second game of the Caps' opening-round matchup against Montreal, ending his time in D.C.
Though the Jose Theodore era in Washington didn't turn out to be as successful as either party had hoped, he still provided the team with solid goaltending and served as a mentor to the Capitals' two budding prospects in Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
6. Pete Peeters
During the early 1980s, Pete Peeters established himself as one of the most promising young goaltenders in the NHL, winning a Vezina Trophy in 1983.
When he joined the Capitals two seasons later, Peeters continued that solid play, as he lead the Capitals on a pair of deep playoff runs in the later half of the decade.
In 1987-88, Peeters sported the best goals against average in the NHL, though, he only started 35 games for the Capitals due to the fact that the team used a platoon system.
Ultimately, Peeters never became the Hall of Fame-caliber goaltender he was once projected to be, but he still managed to carve out an impressive career for himself as a starter for the better part of 10 seasons.
5. Michal Neuvirth
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Since making his debut in 2008-09, Michal Neuvirth has become one of the best young goalies in the game, and he appears to be the Capitals' leading man in net for the foreseeable future.
In 2010-11, Neuvirth's first full NHL campaign, the 23-year-old set a franchise record for wins by a rookie goalie with 27. He also helped the Capitals earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference in preparation for the playoffs.
Though once considered an understudy to fellow 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov, Neuvirth outplayed his partner in 2010-11 and was named the team's starting goaltender for the playoffs.
After a reasonably solid postseason performance, the Capitals demonstrated their belief in Neuvirth by dealing Varlamov to Colorado this summer.
While veteran Tomas Vokoun was brought in as a free agent to help the Capitals take a run at the Cup, Neuvirth still projects to be Washington's starting goaltender long after Vokoun has moved on. If he continues to develop, Neuvirth has the potential to be much higher on this list by the time his career is over.
4. Pat Riggin
Like Theodore, Pat Riggin's time in Washington was short, but during his three-and-a-half-seasons with the Capitals, he cemented his status as one of the best goaltenders in franchise history.
In 1983-84, Riggin was exceptional, as he posted a league-best goals against average of 2.66 and captured the William Jennings Trophy, becoming the first goalie in team history to do so. Riggin's performance that season also earned him a spot on the NHL's second All-Star team, though, he played in just 41 games.
After that magical year, Riggin lasted just one more full season in Washington before losing his starting job to Al Jensen. He was shipped off to Boston after playing in only seven games.
It's been suggested in the past that Riggin wasn't exactly what one would call a model teammate, and that was likely the reason why the Capitals opted to deal him despite his spectacular play in net.
3. Don Beaupre
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During the 1980s, the Capitals were hampered by very inconsistent goaltending during their postseason appearances, so the team attempted to address that issue by trading for Don Beaupre midway through the 1988-89 season.
The following year, Beaupre helped lead the Caps to their first Conference Final berth in franchise history, though, he split the goaltending duties with partner Mike Liut.
In 1990-91, Beaupre posted a league-best five shutouts in just 45 games and lead the team on another deep postseason run as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He would have a couple of other solid seasons in D.C., highlighted by the second All-Star Game selection of his career in 1992, but the Capitals never again enjoyed the playoff success that they did during his first full campaign with the team.
2. Jim Carey
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In the history of the National Hockey League, there have been few players who were as successful as Jim Carey was at such a young age.
Unfortunately, there are even fewer whose play declined as rapidly as the Boston native's did in the late 1990s.
As a rookie in 1994-95, Carey was sensational, as he earned 18 wins in just 28 games during the lockout-shortened season and placed third in the league in shutouts. His efforts garnered him a spot on the NHL's All-Rookie Team, and Carey appeared to be the Capitals' goalie of the future.
In 1995-96, Carey was even better, racking up 35 wins and a league-leading nine shutouts. That year, Carey became the first netminder in franchise history to win the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender, and he looked like he'd cemented himself as one of the brightest young stars in the game.
That summer, Carey served as Team USA's backup at the World Cup of Hockey, earning a championship ring as his squad knocked off Team Canada in the finals.
However, for whatever reason, Carey would never enjoy that level of success again, as his performance dropped off dramatically in 1996-97. Washington traded him to his hometown Boston Bruins in a blockbuster deal.
From there, Carey would play in a grand total of 33 more NHL games before hanging up the skates for good in 1999.
1. Olaf Kolzig
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This one is a no-brainer. There is no goaltender in Capitals history that has even come close to reaching the level of consistency and excellence that Kolzig did during his 16 years with the organization.
Early on in his career, Kolzig served as a backup to Jim Carey and later to Bill Ranford, but after an injury to Ranford in the opening game of the 1997-98 campaign, he was thrust into the starting role.
That season, Kolzig blossomed into one of the best goalies in hockey, leading his Capitals to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history. The man known in Washington as simply "Olie the Goalie" became one of the most popular athletes in a city that puts the Redskins above all else, which is a true testament to the impact that the personable South African-born goaltender had on D.C.
After that magical run to the 1998 Finals, Kolzig captured the Vezina Trophy in 2000 and was a rock in net for the Capitals for a decade.
He had five 30-win seasons, two All-Star selections and routinely played over 60 games a year. He was also the lone bright spot on a very bad Capitals team in 2003-04.
Though his time in Washington didn't end well, as Kolzig was relegated to the backup role when the Caps acquired Cristobel Huet at the trade deadline in 2008, he returned to the organization as a goaltending coach this Summer.
He holds every meaningful franchise goaltending record, and it will not be long before the No. 37 hangs from the rafters at the Verizon Center.