Over their nearly 46 seasons in the National Hockey League, the Washington Capitals have employed the services of a number of notable goaltenders, from household names such as Olaf Kolzig and Braden Holtby, to less notable names such as Michel Belhumeur or Sebastian Charpentier. One netminder who stands among the more notable names is Al Jensen, who spent parts of six seasons in the Red, White, and Blue Capitals’ sweater. In this latest Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps takes a look back at his Capitals career
Originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with the 31st overall pick (second-round) of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, Jensen was dealt to the then-struggling Capitals on July 23, 1981 in exchange for forward Mark Lofthouse. At the time of the trade, the Capitals were a struggling team who had yet to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their then-seven-year existence in the league, and had already employed multiple goaltenders as the franchise struggled to right the ship.
In his first season in the District, Jensen played in 26 games, going 8-8-4 (four ties), with a less-than stellar .885 Save Percentage and 3.82 Goals-Against Average in a season in which the Capitals went 26-41-13 and fired two Head Coaches before Bryan Murray took the team a respectable 25-28-13 after being placed as the bench boss. His second season would prove to be a turning point for Jensen and the Caps.
On September 9, 1982, then-Capitals General Manager David Poile dealt captain Ryan Walter, and defenseman Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom, and forwards Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin. The move turned the fortunes and fate of the Capitals franchise around, resulting in the team going 39-25-16 for a third-place finish in the now-defunct Patrick Division and the team’s first Stanley Cup Playoff Appearance. The team lost in the Division Semi-Finals in four games to the New York Islanders. Jensen went a 22-12-6 in 40 games played, finishing the season with a Goals-Against Average of 3.44, a Save Percentage of .882, and one shutout, helping the Caps finish fifth of then-21 teams in Goals Against. Jensen went 1-2 in the playoffs, with a 4.30 Goals-Against Average, and .868 Save Percentage.
Jensen’s third season in Washington saw the team continue to rise among the NHL’s better teams. The club went 48-27-5 for 101 standings points and a second place finish in the Patrick Division. The team defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a three-game sweep in the Division Semi-Finals before losing again to the Islanders, this time in five games in the Division Finals. The regular season saw Jensen rebound slightly from the season before, as he went a then-career best 25-13-3, with a then-best 2.92 Goals-Against Average, and Save Percentage of .881, with a career-high four shutouts. Despite the Capitals’ end to the postseason, Jensen went 3-1, with a GAA of 3.27 and Save Percentage of .882. At the end of the season, Jensen and fellow netminder Pat Riggin, won the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest-team goals. Jensen’s performance during the season saw him elected to the Wales Conference for the NHL All-Star Game, however an injury kept him out of the game and a good portion of the season. Despite this, he still finished with the team lead in wins.
Jensen would spent two more full seasons with the Capitals, going 38-12-4 in 58 games played, with a Goals-Against Average of 3.03, and Save Percentage of .888, with three shutouts. In three more playoff games played in a Washington sweater (all in 1984-85), Jensen went 1-2, with a postseason career-high .907 Save Percentage and 2.40 Goals-Against Average. Jensen would play just six games with the Caps during the 1986-87 season, going 1-3-1, with a Save Percentage of .852 and Goals-Against Average of 4.97, before being dealt to the Los Angeles Kings on February 14, 1987 in exchange for defenseman Garry Galley. Jensen would play just five games in a Kings sweater, going 1-4-0, with a Goals-Against Average of 5.42 and Save Percentage of .824. He would play one season with the New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey League, going 5-12-3, before retiring at the age of 29.
In total, Jensen played parts of six seasons in a Capitals sweater, playing in 1733 games while going 94-48-18, with a Save Percentage of .883 and Goals-Against Average of 3.27, with eight shutouts. Jensen currently ranks fourth in Capitals franchise history in wins, fifth in Goals-Against, fifth in Saves, fifth in Shutouts, and fourth in Games Played among Goaltenders.
By Michael Fleetwood
Stats compiled via Hockey-Reference
Check Out Our Other Capitals Alumni Profile HERE
Will always love Al Jensen