Schoenfeld hedges on TV Cup prediction

April 16, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

At the start of this season, then-ESPN commentator Jim Schoenfeld predicted the Pittsburgh Penguins would win their third Stanley Cup.

Yesterday, Schoenfeld, now the coach of the Washington Capitals, had this to say about that: "I picked Pittsburgh because I didn't know enough about this team."

The Capitals meet the Penguins in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round Stanley Cup playoff series tomorrow night.

"The biggest advantage we have is our team unity," said Schoenfeld. "It's not a matter of can we do it. It's a matter of dTC doing it. We can beat Pittsburgh. We've proven that. But to do it, every one of our guys has to do his job."

That translates to a five-point game plan:

* Win the one-on-one battles in the corners.

* Win the one-on-one battles in front of the net.

* Get the rebounds for second shots.

* Stand up at the blue line and don't let the Penguins pick up speed in the neutral zone.

* Try to catch the Penguins in the transition game and finish them off with a goal.

"We frustrated Pittsburgh defensively during the regular season, and that's what we have to do in this series," said Capitals right wing Keith Jones. "They don't make many mistakes, but they do make some, and when they make them, we have to be ready to make them pay."

The last time the Capitals met the Penguins in the postseason was the 1991-92 season. Pittsburgh came back after being down three games to one and went on to win its second Stanley Cup. In 1990-91, the Penguins defeated Washington four games to one, and went on to win their first Cup.

But 14 players on the current Capitals roster didn't play in those series. Ten of them weren't even around for last year's first-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders.

"We know there are a lot of people out there who shrug and say, 'So what? The Caps are in the playoffs,' " said Mike Ridley. "They can be negative and look at our history, but our history doesn't count for anything. It's only how we play in the future that counts.

"Last year, everyone saw that strange things can happen. Los Angeles and Montreal, two third-place teams in their divisions, played for the Cup. This year, we finished third in our division. We had a good finish to the regular season [a three-game winning streak], so who knows what can happen now with a little good luck?"

Last year, Washington's biggest problem was that while goals were hard to come by in the regular season, they got even harder to find in the playoffs. This season, goals were hard to find early, but a number of Capitals who had been in slumps have improved considerably down the stretch, and the addition of playmaker Joe Juneau has given Washington an added dimension.

Kelly Miller, Dave Poulin, Michal Pivonka and Dimitri Khristich have started playing to their potential.

Khristich, whose 29 goals lead the team, had been in an eight-game scoring slump until he finished the season by scoring goals in the Capitals' last two games.

All of it delights Schoenfeld, who said he is looking for players "who want to embrace" pressure.

"Our guys have to think this is our time," he said.

PLAYOFF PAYOFF?

A look at how the Washington Capitals have fared in the their 11 trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs:

1992-93

1st round Lost to Islanders, 4-2

1st round Lost to Penguins, 4-3

1st round Beat Rangers, 4-2

2nd round Lost to Penguins, 4-1

1989-90

1st round Beat Devils, 4-2

round Beat Rangers, 4-1

Semifinals Lost to Bruins, 4-0

1988-89

1st round Lost to Flyers, 4-2

1st round Beat Flyers, 4-3

round Lost to Devils, 4-3

1986-87

1st round Lost to Islanders, 4-3

1st round Beat Islanders, 3-0

round Lost to Rangers, 4-2

1984-85

1st round Lost to Islanders, 3-2

1st round Beat Flyers, 3-0

round Lost to Islanders, 4-1

1982-83

1st round Lost to Islanders, 3-1

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