Frustrated Murray gives struggling Caps a break

November 16, 1992|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- After an exhaustive review of the situation, which included a lost weekend against New Jersey, Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray saw his duty yesterday and did it:

He called off practice.

Complaining of being "frustrated" and noting the same trait in many of the players, Murray surmised that getting away from the rink for a while might be more beneficial than continuing to harp on the things that are plaguing his underachieving squad.

Foremost among the team's problems as it returns to practice today and tomorrow before Minnesota comes to town Wednesday is its inconsistency. A veteran team, which describes Washington, is not supposed to play as erratically as the Caps have while winning just seven of their first 18 games.

Remember, this is the team that finished second overall in the NHL last year in the standings and goals scored.

Now, not only is the goal-scoring down by one a game, but the defense has been spotty and the goaltending downright wanting.

In the 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Devils on Saturday night, for instance, the usually reliable Don Beaupre gave up two soft goals after his team had taken an early lead and appeared in command.

The night before, in New Jersey, Beaupre had been called off the bench after a period to relieve Jim Hrivnak, who was guilty of providing the Devils with a quick start because of his inability to follow the puck.

Beaupre had been nursing a pulled muscle in his side and probably wasn't completely ready to play. The lead goalie's record is 2-8, and he hasn't won a game in a month.

Regardless, Murray has consistently defended Beaupre, pointing out, "Donnie gave us a big effort [Saturday] while making several great saves."

This serves to emphasize how unreliable the defense has been while allowing two more goals than the offense has generated.

A check of the plus-minus ratings of the defenders has been telling that story all along. The two top defensemen now that it's likely Rod Langway is no longer a full-timer -- Al Iafrate and Kevin Hatcher -- "lead" the corps in goals given up while on the ice with minus-10 and minus-four scores, respectively.

The Capitals made a move to boost the offense yesterday, calling up Reggie Savage from the Skipjacks.

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