Team defense and goaltending are the principal ingredients in the Washington Capitals' recent success, according to coach Terry Murray.
The Capitals put a five-game winning streak, their longest since they won eight in a row in March 1989 on the way to a Patrick Division championship, on the line against the Buffalo Sabres at the Capital Centre tomorrow night. Washington has allowed only seven goals in the past five games.
The Capitals, who have played seven of their past eight games on the road, have won eight of the past 10 to climb from fifth to second in the division. Buffalo, from the Adams Division, has lost only once in its past six games (4-1-1).
Washington's streak has been accomplished without two of its leading offensive players, right wing Dino Ciccarelli (broken thumb) and center Peter Zezel (sprained ankle), plus goalie Don Beaupre (pulled groin muscle) and left wing Alan May (bruised knuckles).
"Losing those guys has hurt," Murray said at practice yesterday at the Mount Vernon (Va.) Rink, "but the other guys -- all 20 of our skaters -- have picked it up and done the job. We've played great team defense, especially away from the puck, and our goaltenders, no matter who we've had in the pipes -- Mike Liut, Beaupre or Jim Hrivnak -- have done a super job.
"You can't have a winning streak unless it is a team effort. Defense is the key. If you play good team defense, your offense will come. We have to be patient, work for our opportunities and not overhandle the puck. You have to get the puck in deep in the offensive zone and make good passes. When you do this and avoid your defensemen jumping up at the goal, you cut down on mistakes and get more offensive opportunities of your own. This also helps cut down on two-on-ones and three-on-twos by the opposition."
Said forward Kelly Miller:"The main thing with any winning streak is that it takes a team effort," Miller said. "Everyone is pitching in, doing his job and doing it well. Good defense creates good offense. We are winning because 20 guys are doing their job every night.