The crowd in Quebec Tuesday night was so quiet that it was possible to hear Washington Coach Bryan Murray shout instructions to his team. Two commands were issued more frequently than others: "Shoot" and "Stand up."
Murray was still shouting the same words during yesterday's practice at Fort Dupont, with varying results. Certainly, the response was not sufficient to satisfy him.
"Earlier on, everybody was shooting the puck well," Murray said. "Now, everybody seems to be looking for an extra pass. In some cases, I'm afraid they lack confidence in their shot. But nobody ever scored a goal without shooting the puck."
The plea to "stand up" did not signify that the Capitals were lying down. In hockey, a defenseman stands up when he challenges the opposing skater at the blueline, hoping to strip the puck or force an offside pass. Defensemen who do not stand up, but instead back in toward their own net, provide the opponent with room to make a good pass and serve to screen their own goalie when the opponent shoots from closer range.
"Besides failing to shoot enough, the other thing we haven't done very well, particularly in our building, is to stand up at the blueline," Murray said. "We have to force them to make a good play to get around us."
In Thursday's 3-3 tie against Los Angeles, Washington defensemen repeatedly backed up, causing problems for goalie Dave Parro. Similar tactics tonight in St. Louis (WDCA-TV-20 at 9) against the Blues promise nothing but disaster. The Blues have some good-shooting forwards and have recently returned to last year's form. St. Louis has won its last eight home games, a club record.
Murray was concerned enough about the prospects to fly to Denver to watch the Blues' game against the Colorado Rockies last night. He was perturbed because the scouting report furnished him on Los Angeles did not conform to the way the Kings played here.
"I've got to get a look at the Blues," Murray said. "I know they're playing much better and the information I can pick up will really help plan for the game."
Murray initiated some pregame strategy yesterday when he moved Tony Cassolato onto the No. 1 line with Ryan Walter and Dennis Maruk, shifting Mike Gartner to a second unit with Gaetan Duchesne and Bengt Gustafsson. Bobby Gould moved in as the right wing with Lou Franceschetti and Bobby Carpenter.
"I feel they'll be concerned about checking our big line and moving Gartner over with Gus gives us a second line that can score," Murray said. "We've got to get a little more goal production. Hopefully, Bobby Carpenter will continue to score. He's going well offensively and he's working on his defensive game."
Carpenter, who had been struggling, has four goals in the last four games for a season total of 15.
Rick Green, the cornerstone of the Capitals' defense, figures to be much sharper than on Thursday, his first game back since he suffered a shoulder separation Dec. 14.