Guy Charron skated through most of this season with a monkey on his back, if not a whole team. So it's somewhat surprising, even for him, to note on this final weekend of the regular season that Charron, for the second straight year, has played every game for the Washington Capitals.
Charron banged up his right knee playing for Team Canada in Vienna 11 months ago. Then, in September, he fell during a tennis match and suffered a slight ligament tear. It was questionable whether he would open the season in uniform or in a hospital.
Dr. Pat Palumbo recommended that Charron build up the knee through exercise, rather than undergo surgery. It has proven a wise move.
"I was worried about the knee at the beginning," Charron said yesterday. "I was afraid the whole season was in jeopardy. I was hurt and there was the chance that any game the knee would go and I'd have to have surgery.
"Things worked out and I'm happy about it. The knee if fine and everything turned out fine. I lifted weights all year to keep the legs strong and it's worked to my advantage. I've felt stronger than ever before."
Worrying about the knee affected Charron's early season performance. His frustration evident to those in the stands, he scored only seven goals in the first 25 games and that created additional concern - and pressure.
"I was actually under more strain psychologically than physically," Charron said. "I felt pressure to prove to myself and to everybody that last year was not a fluke, and that I could have an even better year. If the team had been going well, and the power play had been going well, I wouldn't have been worrying so much.
With the team losing and the power play not going, I felt I wasn't fullfilling my duties to the team. I'm always on the power play and I felt I wasn't meeting my responsibilities. It was a pretty worryring time."
Added to Charron's burden was a series of nagging injuries. He suffered a broken nose, his left knee was twisted, he was hampered by a build-up of blood in his righ eye following a nasty whack with a stickkkkk. Still, he never had a chance to rest, not even for a shift.
Charron was a constant target of opposition checkers. For a while, the line of Charron. Bob Sirois and Bob Girard provided the Capital's only offensive threat, and opponents endeavored to neutralize it physically...
"Many times, as the year went on, I felt that I was a target," Charron said. "It's hard to play when you're out there and another guy steps on the ice whose only job is to stop you. But you can't throw in the towel. It actually makes you a better player, because you give something extra knwoing he's there! It builds you up."
A guy can be a better player without producing as much, however. Sirois, after scoring 17 goals in his first 36 games, has collected only six in the next 34.
"I told Bobby that with the start he had, the toughest part hadn't started," Charron said. "I told him he'd find a guy out there with a special job of watching him constantly. One thing Bobby has done, as they've covered him more, is to set me up with some fine passes. I never could have come close to what I've done without him."
What Charron has done is score 37 goals, surpassing by one the club record he set last year. He has reached that figure, despite his disappointing start, by posting 12 goals, including two hat tricks, in the last 11 games. This week, the Hockey News selected him as NHL Player of the Week.
Charron feels so good that he is awaiting another call from Team Canada, looking forwarrad to happier times in this year's world championships in Prague, April 26-May 14.
"If they ask, I'll accept," Charron said. "It will be a privilege. Hopefully, I'll come back with a meddededededeal and glorify a lot of things that have gone wrong this year."
The Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, both devoid of playoff (WTOP-1500 at 8 p.m.). The Capitals close their season at Capital Centre tomorrow night against Atlanta.