Ridley thinks Caps may be trying too hard

March 15, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals have been in something of a free fall. For a month, coach Jim Schoenfeld said he had "the 20 best players in the NHL," and they produced an 11-2-2 record. But the team has gone 0-4-2 in its past six, prompting the coach to suggest there are several selfish players who are not giving their all.

Add to that center Mike Ridley's assessment that there are players who "think they're so good, they can do no wrong," and there is little doubt that these have been a hard few days all around. The team goes into tonight's Eastern Conference game with the Pittsburgh Penguins with one point separating it from the charging eighth-place Philadelphia Flyers.

"We're the perfect example of the meaning of that old saying, 'Together we stand, divided we fall,' " said Ridley, whose 25 goals and 35 assists lead the Caps' scoring. "When we're all together, playing with confidence, we win. When guys start trying to make big plays on their own, instead of doing their little jobs, that's trouble. Over the course of a game or a week or two, that causes things to start breaking down."

But Ridley said he does not believe the trouble is not caring.

"If we didn't care or try, we'd be getting killed and we wouldn't be outshooting teams," Ridley said. "I think guys are trying to give everything they've got. But sometimes some guys try to do too much."

The Capitals do take chances. When a player has the option of making a 50-50 pass up the middle or making the 100 percent sure play of moving it up the boards to the wing, he often takes the gamble.

Or, Ridley said, when a forward is the high man, instead of staying high and picking up his winger and making sure that at best it's a three-on-three situation, the Caps' high man often jumps in. Twenty-five to 50 percent of the time, the other team is able to chop by and get out on a three-on-two break.

"There are hundreds of little plays, and most of the time we go for the risky play," said Ridley. "So I think it's trying to do too much. I think everybody is guilty of that at times."

This late in the season, Washington can ill afford to continue the trend. However, Don Beaupre, who will be in goal tonight, tried for a positive spin.

"We know, with the right effort, we can get back on the right track as soon as the next game," said Beaupre. "It wasn't like that in December. In December, it was drastic. It didn't seem like there would ever be an end to it. But now we know we're going in the right direction. Now we feel we've come up on a stumbling block and it's ourselves. We're in position to win, we just have to finish it off."

CAPITALS TONIGHT

Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins

Site: Civic Arena, Pittsburgh

Time: 7:35

TV: Channel 20

Radio: WMAL (630 AM)

Outlook: The Capitals, winless in their past six games, face another hard test in the Penguins (35-22-12). Pittsburgh has won two straight and four of its past five games. Star Mario Lemieux, who did not play in the team's 3-2 win over Hartford Sunday, is expected to play tonight. Caps G Don Beaupre is expected to be in goal, again seeking his 250th win. Washington G Rick Tabaracci (knee) was scheduled to get a magnetic resonance imaging test last night and would not make the trip. D John Slaney (sprained ankle) also will not travel. RW Pat Peake (cracked rib) is traveling but is out of tonight's game. RW Alan May, who was shaken up in an auto accident after Saturday's game, is available. Pittsburgh C Bryan Trottier (back spasms) and RW Rick Tocchet (sore back) are day-to-day. Trottier has missed 21 of the past 22 games, and Tocchet the past six.

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