Schoenfeld wants Caps to think

April 09, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

With the playoffs looming and the Washington Capitals struggling toward the finish line, team owner Abe Pollin came to practice yesterday for the first time in the memory of his longest-serving players.

"I just wanted to let them know I have a lot of confidence in them," Pollin said. "One of them asked me what would I like to see, and I said, 'I'd like to see us win the Stanley Cup.' "

Pollin pointed to the positives, not the negatives, in recent games.

"I told them we had dominated all the teams we've lost to and that one day, with that effort, those kind of games are going to turn into wins," he said.

Coach Jim Schoenfeld wasn't dwelling on lowlights, either.

"Sometimes guys work real hard and get nothing accomplished," said Schoenfeld. "I always say no matter how hard you work, you can't open a can of beans with a banana. You might be sincere and work for hours. But why, when you can do it in seconds with a can opener?"

That is a not-so-subtle suggestion that hard work will get the Capitals nowhere without intelligence.

Schoenfeld obviously thinks he has given the Capitals a can opener. Three months ago, he put in a defensive, hard checking system and produced a 9-1-1 run. Now that record is 16-12-2 because the Caps, in critical moments, don't play smart.

During this three-game losing streak, goaltenders Don Beaupre, Rick Tabaracci and Byron Dafoe have come in for much of the criticism because the Caps have lost on late goals after seeming to have each game in hand.

Schoenfeld said he would decide today who would start tonight against the Ottawa Senators. But he declined to finger his goalies as the only culprits in the losses.

"Pointing to the goalies is an easy alibi," he said. "No one is off the hook."

Yesterday there was a pre-game meeting in which players were told of specific problems.

Practice was run with specifics in mind, too. The Caps worked on defense in their zone, on three-on-three coverages and on making a concentrated effort toward scoring.

"Sometimes, we seem to forget what it takes to win," said left wing Craig Berube. "We had it going for a while, and then we let it slip by not doing the little things. . . . He stressed if you think you're doing your job and the team loses, you're not doing your job."

Pat Peake, who had been playing on the top line with Michal Pivonka and Joe Juneau, was demoted to the fifth line with Peter Bondra yesterday, meaning Peake and Bondra probably will sit out tonight.

"I'm looking for the third piece to the puzzle," said Schoenfeld, who moved Steve Konowalchuk onto the Juneau-Pivonka line.

Pivonka started the season at center and struggled to find his scoring touch. Now playing left wing for the first time since a few shifts in the 1988-89 season, he has one goal and nine assists in his past 12 games.

"After the way I started, I couldn't go any lower," said Pivonka. "This isn't going to be a great goal-scoring year for me. But I feel better and I'm playing at a pace of about a point a game. I'm playing pretty strong and I'm contributing. I'm glad he sees what I'm doing, but I know I still have a lot of room for improvement."

A lot of players do. Bondra has not scored in 10 games, and Dimitri Khristich, the team's top goal scorer with 27, has not scored in eight.

"The thing that kills you is when your highly skilled guys aren't reliable, which means you never quite know what you're going to get," said Schoenfeld.

NOTES: Pollin said nothing would be done until the season ends about general manager David Poile's contract, which runs out after this season.

CAPITALS TONIGHT

Opponent: Ottawa Senators

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:35

TV: HTS

Radio: WMAL (630 AM)

Tickets: 1,300 available

Outlook: Ottawa is 4-4-1 in its past nine games, including a 6-5 victory over Washington on Wednesday night. The Senators lost to the Boston Bruins, 5-4, Thursday and are 0-4-1 in their past five road games. Alexei Yashin has seven points in his past two games, including one goal and three assists against the Caps. His 30 goals are second among NHL rookies, and his 48 assists are first. The Caps are 4-4-2 in their past 10 games overall and 2-5-3 in their past 10 home games. Ottawa reports C Dave Archibald (groin) and C Dave McLlwain (charley horse) are out and D Norm Maciver (ankle) is day-to-day. Washington will be without D Jim Johnson (knee ligaments).

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