Carey had been their ace all season, anchoring the third-best defense in the league. But Carey's accomplishments were ripped apart in short order by the Penguins, who unmasked him for 10 goals on 39 shots in the series.
"No excuses," Carey said. "That's the bottom line."
The Capitals won the first two games of the series and then lost four straight, getting eliminated Sunday. Carey was credited with just one of those losses, the 4-1 defeat in Game 3. But he was pulled from Games 1 and 6, and didn't play in Games 2, 4 and 5.
He wound up with a 6.19 goals-against average. His save percentage was a miserable .744.
It was a diabolic twist to a superb season, in which the Capitals' 21-year-old goalie had the league's second-best goals-against average (2.26), the second most wins (35), the most shutouts (nine) and a .906 save percentage.
Perhaps one of the hardest things Carey had to do after being pulled Sunday was gather himself and walk into a locker room filled with media, ready to grill him. But he did it.
"I don't like to think Pittsburgh has my number," he said. "But statistics-wise, you have to think that way. Still, I'm not going to let that be my career, and whenever we play Pittsburgh just pack 'em up and leave.
"It's something I have to overcome."
He says he doesn't know if it's Pittsburgh or the playoffs, since he never has played any team but the Penguins in the playoffs. Last year, he was 2-4 with a 4.19 goals-against average in the first-round series.
"But it's not the pressure," he said. "When it came down to the last month and a half and we needed to get in the playoffs, it was my best month of the season. So I know it's not that. . . . I can't explain it. But same thing -- like last year -- you think about it, and you use it to grow."
The Capitals will begin two weeks of meetings today, and one issue they will have to come to terms with is the goaltending. Carey showed all season that he can get the job done. But in the playoffs, it was Olie Kolzig who came up big.
Kolzig, who finished the series with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage, said he hasn't given much thought to his future. He is a Group II free agent, but said he expects to be back with Washington.
Kolzig signed a one-year deal for about $300,000 last season. Group II free agents can field offer sheets from other clubs, but their current club has the right to match any offer. Capitals general manager David Poile said yesterday that he has every intention of keeping Kolzig.
Kolzig said he didn't put much pressure on himself in this playoff series, but said that Carey might have because everyone kept saying Carey was the guy "who was going to have to carry us on his shoulders."
Carey is going to bounce back from this, Kolzig said. "It's just one of those experience things. You've got to go through it to get better."
Carey would rather have done without that type of experience, but he mustered a smile.
"It does get you motivated," Carey said. "I think last year's playoff motivated me to have a good season this year. Now, I have something more to overcome and look forward to. And I guess you do have to go through the bad to get better. One day, we're all going to look back at this and laugh."
Pub Date: 4/30/96