LANDOVER -- Let's see. Jim Carey? Olie Kolzig? Olie Kolzig? Jim Carey? Who to start in goal for the Washington Capitals tonight in Game 4? It's called keep 'em guessing, and it's a game that Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld delights in.
He knows, but isn't telling.
Now, there's a question. For days -- actually, for years -- Schoenfeld has said he doesn't want to give the opposing team an edge. Instead, he'd rather just give it one more thing to wonder about.
And yesterday, while saying Pittsburgh doesn't care who the Capitals have in goal, the Penguins were wondering.
TTC "I think it's going to be Kolzig," said Pittsburgh coach Ed Johnston.
"I think I know," said left wing Ron Francis. "But I'll wait and see at game time."
"I'd be surprised if it's not Carey," said center Bryan Smolinski. "If they're planning on going anywhere later, if they're able to win this series, then they have to get him going."
Carey is 0-1 in the series, Kolzig 2-0.
But yesterday, Schoenfeld said something else.
"By not saying who is starting," Schoenfeld said, "it keeps you guys [the media] away from our goalies. It takes some of the pressure off them because it changes the questions.
"Instead of, 'Oh, Jimmy, you haven't done well against Pittsburgh and you'restarting tonight, how does that affect your game preparation?' you're talking about the mystery. It prevents you asking Jimmy or Olie questions that are going to put doubts in their minds.
"It's just a way of protecting them from you jamokes."
Kolzig laughs, "It's playoff hockey. If he thinks this gives us an edge, use it."
Carey looked incredulous.
"I know Coach is just trying to do his job the best he can and if he feels taking the pressure off us media-wise works, well, go with it," he said. "But from Olie's and my point of view, we're professionals. We can handle media and the fans yelling at us. We like the attention.
"It's why I love being the goaltender. You're the guy. You can single-handedly dictate a game -- usually. Off the ice it can be a hassle sometimes.
"But if I took what the fans and media said to heart -- one day I'm a god and the next I'm a bum and don't even belong on the face of the earth -- if I listened to that, my life would be a mess. If I took any of that seriously, I think I'd be subhuman -- or worse."
And it is hard to believe Schoenfeld has gone to such lengths just to distance his goalies from hard questions.
When the team came onto the ice for Game 2, Schoenfeld sent Carey out onto the ice first, usually a sure sign that he would be starting. But Kolzig got the call. There was no reason to do that for the media. The only people who really cared at that point were the Penguins.
"Pittsburgh doesn't believe Jim's an awesome goaltender," said Caps center Joe Juneau. "They really have no respect and it's working their way."
Pittsburgh left wing Petr Nedved, who has two of his four goals against Carey in this series, denies that.
"We know Carey is a good goalie," said Nedved. "But sometimes you feel he's not where he should be and when you get that feeling, you shoot more. That's all we're doing."
Smolinski, who has yet to score in the playoff series, said he thinks the Penguins "simply don't care" whether Carey or Kolzig is in net for the Caps. He agrees with Washington left wing Todd Krygier that it isn't an issue.
"If we had only one good goalie, like Tampa Bay, then it would matter," said Krygier. "But we've got two good ones."
But even a good one sometimes runs into a team that has his number.
"Like Patrick Roy against the Philadelphia Flyers," said Kolzig. "Or me in Maple Leaf Garden against Toronto. I just don't play well there."
Schoenfeld agreed that kind of thing happens sometimes, but he's not sure that's the case with Carey and the Penguins. Carey isn't sure, either.
"I just haven't had much success against them," he said, recalling his 1-3 regular-season record. "It's frustrating, but I'm certainly trying to work it out."
Will he continue the effort tonight? Or will Kolzig try to pick up where he left off in Game 2?
Schoenfeld is operating on a need-to-know basis. And as far as he's concerned, no one needs to know until game time.
Eastern Conference quarterfinals Game 4 (Caps lead series, 2-1)
Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Time: 7: 30
TV/Radio: Varies by county, see TV listings, 2D/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM).
Pub Date: 4/24/96