A newspaper headline here summed up Washington's 7-5 victory over Detroit Thursday night in two words: "Caps Shoddy." Although Coach Bryan Murray didn't use those terms, he admitted his club would have to relearn some of its recent lessons.
And they'll have to learn fast. Saturday night, the Capitals will finish the exhibition season by meeting Philadelphia, a sneak preview of the home-opener, Oct. 9.
Against Detroit, Washington opened a 4-0 lead, but the dozing Red Wings came back with four goals in an eight-minute span of the second period, prompting a frustrated Murray to call it "just a crazy game."
"We forgot all about our own responsibilities," he said. "Our defense just broke down."
Defense has long been a concern of the Capitals, who rarely have had any. With the team's recent infusion of Montreal blood, Washington observers might have expected the Capitals to become kind of a New York Sack Exchange on ice.
But Thursday night they were still the Capitals, fighting to keep pace. "We fell apart in our own zone and in the center," Murray said. "We were maybe so concerned about seeing points on the scoreboard, we sacrificed a litle."
But if Washington's effort was, in Murray's description, "a very, very mediocre" one, the coach was pleased with a pair of power-play units, combinations that will probably remain together.
Dennis Maruk, who scored the game's first goal, worked with Bobby Carpenter, Chris Valentine, Lee Norwood and Darren Veitch. And Mike Gartner's goal two minutes later was assisted by Milan Novy. Rounding out that group were Brian Engblom, Ken Houston and Bengt Gustafsson.
Murray has tested combinations throughout the preseason, and is happy with some of the results.
The Jarvis line -- Doug Jarvis centering for Ted Bulley and Bob Gould -- was originally intended to be primarily a checking line, but Murray said last night, "Lately they've been our best (line) overall. They're going both ways and complement each other."
Murray plans to keep that line intact, and Gartner, Carpenter and Gustafsson are expected to stay together. Beyond that, he says, "It's still up in the air." He wants to "get more out of Maruk's line," which has included Valentine and Chris Laughlin, or Alan Haworth and Laughlin.
"We've got to be sure the right people are playing together," Murray said. Novy's ultimate assignment also is a question mark, but the Czech has played his best between Haworth and Gustafsson.
Defensively, Murray will keep first-round draft pick Scott Stevens with Engblom, and Rod Langway with Veitch. "The third pair will be split, with Dave Hutchison or Timo Blomqvist coming in," he said. "We've very close to having all our people in the right places. But we're not quite there."