Caps' drought puts players, coach at odds Six losses in eight games take toll on team rapport

November 20, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

With six losses in their past eight games, the Washington Capitals are starting to fray around the edges.

As the team heads back to practice today, following back-to-back losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-2 in overtime Friday and 3-0 on Saturday, the Capitals and their coach agree on the problem: a lack of goal scoring. But they differ on the reasons for it.

The Capitals seem to believe the absence of injured Pat Peake and Peter Bondra has much to do with their problems. Coach Jim Schoenfeld believes, simply, that all 20 players on his team are not giving everything they have.

Schoenfeld spends much time considering who to protect and make excuses for and who to push. After being shut out Saturday, he obviously was miffed with center Joe Juneau.

After Juneau was called for being the culprit in a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, Schoenfeld benched him for the next 14 minutes. And though Juneau returned for the next two periods, the coach was still dismissive of his player after the game.

When a question was begun about "sitting out his top offensive player," Schoenfeld interrupted: "I didn't sit Peter Bondra. I didn't sit Pat Peake. They're injured. I didn't sit Sergei Gonchar. I didn't sit Ken Klee. I don't know who you're referring to."

The reference was to Juneau, whose 12 points are second on the team to Bondra's 14.

"Oh, you meant him, I misunderstood," Schoenfeld said. "There was no message there. It was simply that we play the players we feel we have the best chance to win with. The players who are mentally, physically and emotionally involved in the game. And, as I've said, the situation with Joe is between Joe, me and his teammates."

Juneau has scored one goal, in the season opener against St. Louis, and handed out 11 assists.

"The bottom line," Schoenfeld said, "is we have to score goals and we're not going to win if every one of our guys is not paying the price. All 20 of our guys aren't doing that right now.

"Not scoring goals is killing us. It affects everything: the offense, the special teams, the defense, because any mistake could cost us the game."

Schoenfeld admits that, "chronologically," Peake's going down with thyroid cartilage damage Oct. 29 at St. Louis appears to be the turning point. Washington is 2-6-1 since. But when asked about ensuing lineup changes on the power play, he discounts it.

"It's a fabrication," he said. "Pat was playing real well, and he was our leading power-play scorer. . . . But he only played on a line with two other guys, so his absence could affect the play of his two other linemates. It shouldn't affect every other forward on our team. That's ridiculous."

But the Capitals are only four for their last 72 on the power play and have six goals in six games.

"We have been working hard at it. Everybody cares," Juneau said. "But it's not going right now."

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