To Keep Stanley Cup as a Goal, Good Goalkeeping is Key

By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 9, 1988; 12:00 AM

Whenever Scott Stevens has been asked to talk about key factors that may decide who gets to the Stanley Cup finals, his answer has been that the teams with the hottest goalkeeper, regardless of almost anything else, will keep advancing.

That's one reason Stevens, among others, was all smiles last night following the Washington Capitals' 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Capital Centre.

Pete Peeters was virtually leak-proof in goal, impenetrable except for one nifty play the Devils made to score their only goal of the night, in the third period.

It was a night when Peeters and the Capitals' defense seemed to work in perfect concert. Even if they hadn't, however, it seemed like one of those evenings where a goalkeeper could control the game.

"I've been saying all along that there's one guy who can flat-out win games for you," Stevens reminded listeners in the glee of the home locker room. "The team that goes the furthest in the Stanley Cup usually has the hottest goalie. If you don't have [Mario] Lemieux and [Wayne] Gretzky, a goaltender can win it for you."

To be sure, neither of the electrifying scorers was on the ice last night. But the way Peeters was going, he might have held them in check, too.

"Peeters was sensational," Capitals Coach Bryan Murray said.

The rest of the Capitals played well enough that Stevens' theory wasn't stiffly challenged. And it might have been a completely giddy locker room were it not for the injury suffered by Rod Langway with less than seven minutes left in the game.

Langway, who was still recovering from a charley horse, suffered what appeared to a fairly severe cut in a muscle of his left leg and was taken to Sibley Hospital after the game.

"Unfortunately, we've gotten used to playing without Rod in quite a few games," said Stevens, refering to Langway's back injury earlier in the season and the leg injury that kept him out of two games in the recently completed series against the Flyers.

The play on which Langway was injured looked fairly harmless until Pat Verbeek's skate caught Langway, apparantly across the left calf.

The Capitals complained loudly about Verbeek going unpenalized, but several players who were interviewed afterward said they didn't see the play closely enough to say whether they thought Verbeek did anything flagrant.

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