Different guys give me trouble for different reasons. In Philadelphia, with Eric Lindros and John LeClair, it's not so much that they're going to make a great move, they just pound the puck by you. It's pure power. Those two, as a combination, sometimes I have a tough time with. [Pittsburgh's] Jaromir Jagr is a guy you pay attention to as soon as he touches the puck; he could be at the other goal line with the puck and you still pay attention to him. He's so nifty and so strong, while he's trying to fight the defensemen off he can still get a pretty good shot away. He's a guy I won't say I have trouble with, because I've had my fair share of success against him, but more than anybody else he's the guy I concentrate on the most.
A dark horse I seem to have trouble with the last couple of years is [Carolina's] Jeff O'Neill; for whatever reason, he just seems to get the puck by me. Whether it's a deflection or partial breakaway or whatever, he just seems to be putting the puck behind me. Right now, he probably gives me the most fits. It can get to you, but at same time you know you can get over it. I had a problem playing in Toronto, and once I solved that problem I've had nothing but success there. So once I figure this kid out, I think I'll have a lot more success against Carolina.
Other guys just beat you by drilling the puck. [St. Louis's] Al MacInnis has the hardest shot in the league, no question, and thank God we only play them twice a year. I think he's already broken two goalies' hands this year. He shoots from center ice and it's considered a legitimate scoring chance. He's never caught me with one. Thank God, he's always put it in the net. In this conference I would say Fredrik Modin in Tampa Bay has a bomb. He scored on me last year in Toronto and the puck was already coming back out of the net by the time I reacted. Jamie Heward from the Islanders has a bomb, too, and [Boston's] Ray Bourque has a deceptive shot--he can shoot it hard and he can place it anywhere he wants to.
Goalie equipment has come a long way, but you still feel it when a guy really lets one go. I get stung all the time in practice by my own guys. If it catches you in the right spot, you feel it. When I come off the ice I usually have a stinger somewhere. It's something you get used to. A few weeks ago in Pittsburgh Jiri Slegr hit me in the shoulder in the second period and I felt it and it stung pretty bad, but you just kind of blow it off.
Some of the real skilled guys can make you look bad one-on-one. Again, Jagr is the top guy. He's so strong he can have a guy on him and still make moves. [Florida's] Pavel Bure, with his speed cutting in from the corner, he's not afraid to go right to the goal line and try to cut through everybody and drive it through you. [Boston's] Sergei Samsonov is having a tough year, but in the playoffs a couple of years ago he gave me fits around the crease, he's so nifty. And Lindros and LeClair, they just stand there and the puck could bounce off them and they make quick plays behind the net with their hands and size and skill. It's a nightmare for defensemen to move those guys and it's a nightmare for goalies to see through them.
You realize guys have tendencies, but I don't try to figure anyone out. If goalies are given an idea before the game, like this guy likes to come down the wing, then you look for that and that's when they change it up and shoot from somewhere else and the next thing you know [the puck is] over your shoulder. I just really try to read and react to the situation. I don't really want to think about where a certain guy likes to go. A perfect example was early this year when we played Dallas and couple of guys mentioned to me that Joe Nieuwendyk likes to shoot off his front foot and put it over your glove. The next thing I know, it's inside the post under my blocker. I don't know about other guys, but I don't want to know; I just want to read and react.
You can't help thinking about some things, and obviously you are aware of tendencies, but you can't be sold on them totally.
For instance, Jagr used to go on his forehand on a breakaway after a couple of dekes, and now I notice he's going to his backhand.
If he came down on me I'd be aware, because he usually came down on his forehand on me, and if I purely sold myself to that he'd really embarrass me, because I'd be over on the left side of the net and he'd put it in right side. So I just try to read and react and not let anyone make me look silly out there.
Between The Pipes
Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig is not only one of the best at his profession, he's also one of the most outspoken. Kolzig will be revealing his insights on several topics throughout the hockey season. In the latest segment of this series Kolzig tells Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora about some of the toughest opponents he faces.