Change in net not always a shot at goalie Sometimes motive is shift in strategy

December 10, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals haven't hesitated to switch thei goalie in the middle of a game if things aren't going well. Both Don Beaupre and Jim Hrivnak have been yanked. In New York, Mike Richter has been pulled. In Chicago, keepers have started and come out four times. It seems to be happening almost everywhere.

Is it a sign that goalie depth is improved around the league? A sign of impatience on the bench? A sign of changing strategy?

Caps coach Terry Murray says he isn't sure if goalie depth has improved overall, but in the Capitals' case Murray says he is "very confident" in both of his goalies.

"I don't know if the depth is league-wide, but I hope it is," Murray said. "The backup goaltender is an important guy right now because the season is so long -- 84 games -- and there is a tremendous amount of pressure on a goaltender mentally to be there night after night.

"I think playing night after night, you can get into some bad habits that maybe you're not aware of, and things can go not good for you for a while. Maybe there is a sense that we want to prevent that."

But Murray adds that much of the time pulling the goalie in the middle of a game is not done because of what the goalie is doing.

"The big part of it now is for the coach to use it as a tool to change the flow of the game," Murray said. "Just to break up the tempo, to send a message to everybody else sitting there in front of you that we have to do a better job away from the puck or whatever it might be. I think it's sometimes more than, 'Boy, we're down four goals, and the goaltender's the guy.' "

Hard to cope

Right wing Reggie Savage is still smarting over being sent back to the Skipjacks. Savage had made the Caps roster out of training camp only to be sent down after three games. When recalled, he scored four points in four games, including a dramatic penalty shot that made him the fourth player in NHL history to score his first league goal that way. But again, he was sent back to the AHL.

"There is no way I can cope with that mentally," Savage said. "Just no way. But I had a meeting with [Caps GM] David Poile [last week], and I feel better. We were both very honest."

Neither Poile nor Savage would say if Savage asked to be moved out of the organization, but Poile indicated that may have come up, "It's difficult to be sent down and sometimes the grass does seem greener," he said. Poile added Savage feels he "is close to playing regularly with the Caps, and we don't feel any different."

Gentler NHL?

Everyone says the NHL isn't what it used to be when it comes to playing rough. But the message evidently hasn't been mentally processed in the Smythe Division. Four of the five most penalized teams in the NHL -- Vancouver, San Jose, Edmonton and Los Angeles -- all play in the Smythe Division. The L.A.

Kings, who were never known for roughhousing, lead everyone with nearly 31 penalty minutes per game.

Capturing missed youth

Eric Lindros says he is ready to go "to war" over the incident in Oshawa last week in which he has been accused of assault. The NHL rookie seems to think he is being picked on because of who he is.

Marie Lynn Nunney, 24, of Whitby, Ontario, accused Lindros and several of his friends of dousing her with beer and spitting beer on her in a bar about 1 a.m. Nov. 29. He says he is filing counter-charges, though he won't say what they are.

What he does say, however, is that the incident with Nunney occurred while he was standing on the dance floor with a beer in his hand.

"If I was a student and an incident occurred to the extent of some beer being thrown, I'm sure it wouldn't go anywhere," Lindros said. "I missed a lot of my high school days, and I missed my college days, so I'm trying to catch up a little bit. I was just standing out there. A lot of people saw what happened."

Fastest man

When the Rangers held their skills competition to determine their representatives at the All-Star Weekend competition in Montreal in February, former Cap Mike Gartner crushed everyone in speed skating, circling the rink in 12.8 seconds. The Caps will hold their skills competition Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to public.

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