Informed that he had been selected as the No. 1 star in the Washington Capitals' 4-3 victory at St. Louis Tuesday, Washington captain Guy Charron replied, "Who was up there tonight, my mother?"
The Capitals meet the Boston Bruins at Capital Centre tonight at 7:30 in their 21st game of the season. In 20 games, Charron has collected 14 points to trail team leader Tom Rowe by one point. For many players, 14 points would be manna from heaven; for Charron, it is mere chaff.
This is the man who was called "The Franchise" for his 36-goal season in 1976-77 and his 38-goal campaign in 1977-78. For him, four goals at the one-quarter mark is inexphoable.
It could develop into a disaster, because Charron is pressuring himself in search of an answer. In that game Tuesday, when his overall play dwarfed that of anyone else on the ice, he did not score a goal despite two marvelous opportunities, on a breakway and on a giveaway in front, and he was highly critical of his failures.
"On the breakway, from the moment I got the puck and knew I was onside, I didn't know what I was going to do," Charron said. "Last year, I would think out my move and I wouldn't miss those, but this time I just shot and he went down and stopped it. And then when I took the puck from the defenseman, I hurried my shot. I didn't score then, either, but last year it would have been [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
In Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Blues," Charron fired six shots at St. Louis goalie Ed Staniowski. None got through, although three were well aimed attempts that lacked nothing but good fortune. Afterward, Charron sat at his cubicle, head down.
It is a hockey axiom that Lady Luck eventually evens things up. But a player who presses and gets down on himself may lack the opportunity, for equalization.
"The main thing is that the team wins," Charron tells himself and, others who express interest. "My linemates are scoring and as long as the team wins, I don't feel too bad. I've played a lot of years and my most important goal is to make the playoffs. I want to get out of this thing. I'm tired of losing.
"We have good enough hockey players here to be a competitive hockey club. There's more talent on the team than there was before. If everybody does his job, we'll be OK. The ice time is spread out and more guys are doing more things out there. I got more time before, so maybe that's why I accomplished more."
Two years ago, in his first 20 games, Charron collected 14 goals and nine assists, while firing 59 shots on goal. Last year, troubled by a knee injury and a broken nose, he compiled six, goals and six assists, although totaling 75 shots. This season his 4-10 figures have been the result of only 53 shots.
"I hadn't seen him before, so I really didn't know what to expect," said Coach Danny Belisle. "I'm sure he's under last year's production and I would like to see more goals from him. But I certainly can't complain about the effort he's put out."
On Wednesday, Charron served as left wing, center and point man on the Capitals' power play. He was the only man back as St. Louis scored a shorthanded goal while Robert Picard was caught out of position.
"Our power play has fallen back," Belisle said. "We haven't had time to work on it. We've had too many other things to worry about."
Charron is worrying about his own statistics, but perhaps he should emphasize the production of his linemates, instead. Tom Rowe leads the club with 10 goals and five assists while Bob Sirois has seven goals and five assists.
"Guy has helped me a lot," Rowe said. "He just tells me to jump in the hole and he'll get me the puck. Sometimes, I've actually messed things up because I can't believe he'll get it there and yet there it is."
If Charron can continue to feed Rowe and Sirois those marvelous passes, nobody at Capital Centre will ask more - except Guy Charron.
Ryan Walter returns to the Capital's lineup tonight, after missing three games with stretched ligaments in his left knee . . . Bill Riley is sound, too, after sitting out two with a bruised hip . . . Bob Sirois' left thumb was badly bruised in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to St. Louis, but X-rays showed no break . . . Defenseman Brad Park has returned to Boston's lineup. He underwent knee surgery Oct. 14 and missed 17 games, but the Bruins did not suffer in his absence, losing only four of those 17 . . . Boston Coach Don Cherry has declined to renew his feud with the Capitals, which blazed when Tom McVie was coach. Cherry spoke highly of present Coach Danny Belisle and said, "They will have to fill the seats without any help from me this year." . . . Tonight is stick night and the Capitals expect their largest crowd of the season.