If the Washington Capitals' wingers can't produce some goals this week, beginning with tonight's home game against Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m., it's almost certain there will be a rise in traffic along Interstate Rte. 83, the fastest route to farm country, hockey variety, in Hershey, Pa.
In the capitals' 10 games thus far, right wing Bob Sirois has registered six goals, 10 points. All the other wingers have totaled but six goals, 11 points.
Most likely to reinforce the big club are 1977 draftees, Eddy Godin, who has eight points in eight games with Hershey, and Mike Lothouse, with five points.
While some wingers are careful to request 24-hour service at the cleaners, rookie defenseman Robert Picard can count on being around Capital Centre for a long time. Picard has made mistakes in his first seven NHL games, many of them, but his promise of future stardom is so great only a fool or a most disgruntled Washington rooter would mumble, as some have, that "Picard looks like another Greg Joly."
Picard has more muscle in his neck than Joly boasts in both shoulders. Besides being strong, he is quick, and he responds to advice, from coach Tom McVie or veteran Bryan Watson or anybody else who seems to make some sense.
Where Picard was often victimized by a forward's sudden move in his early games, he played almost flawless defense in a home-and-home series with the Philadelphia Flyers. And, except for being bitten on the forehead by a frustrated Paul Holmgren, Picard was right at home in the rough going.
"It's another ice, that's all," Picard said after Thursday's game in the Spectrum, "I thought they (the Flyers) were worse than that, I was getting the guys in the middle, as they were coming across the blue line, I loved that."
Shrugging off the tooth marks from Holmgren's assault, Picard said after Saturday's return match here, "I've been trying to cut my goals against, and I haven't had any the last two games. I was on for 10 or 11 on the trip, and I had to work on my defense. I still have to go up there (carry the puck) once in a while, but I think concentration on defense is helping my game."
McVie knows Picard has a long way to go to JHL stardom, but he is pleased with the 20-year-old's progress.
"I really feel he's going to be a premium defenseman in the National League," McVie said. "He's got what it takes to be a great defenseman. If we were picking No. 1 again back in June or July, I would hope we would pick him. I like what we got better than what Detroit (Dale McCourt) or Colorado (Barry Beck) got.
"Robert is going to take time. There's only one Bobby Orr, and defensively he had all the trouble he could handle the first year or two. Robert isn't ever going to be as good as Orr and to expect him to lead our hockey club out of the wilderness at this point in his life would be foolish. But he's going to be a very good one."
McVie has one fault to find with Picard, the tendency to float a bit on the ice, rather than go full speed at all time.
"He's playing defense for us like he played for the Montreal Juniors last year," McVie said. "He played about 45 or the 60 minutes and apparently the coach told him to pace himself. In this league he's got to get skating, do as much as he can in two minutes and then get off the ice."
Picard admits awareness of the tremendous gap between junior hockey and the NHL, but he says, "Every game I feel more confident. I'm more comfortable out there. I just step on and play hockey, and each night I think I'm playing better hockey."
Tonight one of Picard's blue-line targets will be right wing Hartland Monahan, dealt by the Capitals to Pittsburgh on opening night and since shuffled along to Los Angeles.
Monahan flew into Pittsburgh Sunday, packed up his trailer and drove to Washington to clear up more loose ends yesterday. He has rented his house here to Capitals Gord Lane and Tom Rowe, and plans to buy a home in California.
"I think it's great," Monahan said of his trade to the Kings. "It's nice to know you're wanted by somebody, and fortunately it's one of the better teams in the league. I was confused about going to PIttsburgh, with all their right wings, but I got the idea it was just a preliminary to something else.
"Linda and I had just got our phone installed in our apartment in PIttsburgh, and we called her parents, and mine, and Guy Charren, to give them our number. Then the first time it rang, about 11 o'clock that night, it was Baz Bastien, to tell me I was traded to L.A.
"Linda was upset, because she'd only been in one day, and we'd just unpacked the trailer, but it's worked out O.K. My lawyer and Mr. (general manager George) Maguire have worked out contract terms and the fact that everybody says what a good deal the Kings made getting Syl (Apps) and me has made things easier."
Monahan is skating on a line with two old teammates from his Ranger days, Bert Wilson and Pete Stemkowski. He calls tonight's contest "just another game, which happens to be against the Capitals," but he wouldn't mind showing a few folks around here where they might have gotten some more goal production at the wings.