Caps leave Beaupre home to work on concentration

March 31, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

The Washington Capitals are in Chicago tonight, fighting for their playoff lives, as their NHL season dwindles to just eight games, and their grip on a playoff spot is a mere five points.

But their No. 1 goalie, Don Beaupre, not only won't be in the net tonight, but didn't even make the trip.

Beaupre, who has started 15 of the team's past 17 games, was left behind by coach Jim Schoenfeld yesterday to give him time to think about what it takes to make the big save in a pressure situation.

"I just want to get him ready for [tomorrow night's home game against] New Jersey," said Schoenfeld, who denied the decision was punitive, following the team's disappointing 2-2 overtime tie with the New York Islanders Tuesday.

In that game, the Capitals led 2-1 with 2:45 to play when New York's Marty McInnis managed to squeeze the puck under Beaupre's prone body for a power-play goal. It was only the 15th shot Beaupre had faced all night.

And that is the problem. As the Capitals play better defensively, the opposing team's shots are so few and far between that Beaupre has little more to do than count the fans in the stands. The problem develops when late in the game Beaupre has to be at his best.

"It isn't easy, but he has to do it," said Schoenfeld. "It's ridiculous, isn't it? We play an almost perfect defensive game. You think you need just four hard saves a game. It doesn't sound like much, but it's hard. Donnie's out there playing his [backside] off, but it's hard. It's four saves over 60 minutes of playing time over 2 1/2 hours. Most people don't realize how hard that is. He sat there for 10 minutes in the third period before he had a shot. It's really tough, because the pressure keeps mounting."

Beaupre was still hurting yesterday over the tie he said "felt like a loss" and seemed almost relieved not to be making the trip.

"Right now, my head is spinning a little bit," he said. "There haven't been a lot of shots. It's been pretty tough mentally, and you feel a little sorry for yourself."

In the past three games, Beaupre has seen a 2-0 lead against Detroit turn into a 2-2 tie after giving up two goals late in the third period; watched his team recover from three short-handed goals to tie Boston, 4-4, only to allow the winning goal on a long-distance slap shot off the stick of former teammate Al Iafrate; and failed to preserve a 2-1 lead Tuesday.

"The biggest problem is my heart isn't pounding more than if I were sitting in the stands," Beaupre said."It's the toughest thing. What can you do, aside from doing wind sprints to the blue line and back -- and I don't think that's appropriate. I've been in it mentally, but it's a game of inches and I haven't been covering that inch or two."

Goalie Byron Dafoe will start tonight, and Olie Kolzig has been recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League. Tomorrow, Kolzig goes back to Portland and Beaupre will start against the Devils.

But the problem could solve itself tomorrow. New Jersey is second only to Montreal in goals scored this season. Beaupre is likely to see a lot of shots.

CAPITALS TONIGHT

Opponent: Chicago Blackhawks

Site: Chicago Stadium

Time: 8:35

TV: Channel 20

Radio: WITH (1230 AM), WMAL (630 AM)

Outlook: Unless the teams meet in the Stanley Cup finals, tonight's game will be the Capitals' last at historic Chicago Stadium, which is being replaced with a new building next season. The Caps have not won there since Dec. 21, 1988. The Caps will be without G Don Beaupre, RW Peter Bondra, LW Todd Krygier and RW Tim Bergland, who are all healthy, but did not make the trip. G Rick Tabaracci (knee) and D Shawn Anderson (abdominal strain) also are out. Chicago reports RW Dirk Graham (separated shoulder) and D Eric Weinrich (broken jaw) as day-to-day. LW Michel Goulet (massive concussion), D Steve Smith (broken leg) and D Cam Russell (herniated disk surgery) are out.

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