Twenty-eight months have passed since the Washington Capitals obtained Mike Palmateer. At the time, Max McNab, then the general manager, said, "I hope we can forget about goaltending for the next 10 years."
Palmateer has departed, leaving an unredeemed guarantee that Washington would be a playoff team, and McNab is gone, too. But inconsistent goaltending still is a problem.
Although the illness of many Capitals could be grounds to excuse some of the sorry play in Saturday's 9-2 loss to Buffalo, there were no excuses offered for or by Dave Parro and Pat Riggin, the men embarrassed by the flashing red light.
Asked if he was concerned about his team's goaltending, Coach Bryan Murray answered, "I sure am. We've given guys a chance to play and prove themselves and none of them has played and proven himself. We haven't played a game yet with adequate goaltending. We've won a couple, but we're not getting the big saves. We've won without the goaltending we need."
While the players were given a day off yesterday to assuage hurt feelings and relieve physical shortcomings, Murray met with General Manager David Poile to discuss possible moves.
Outside of a major deal, which seems unlikely with so many other clubs in need of goalie depth, the only options appear to be calling up Robbie Moore or Al Jensen from Hershey. Murray has indicated before he does not consider either a solid major league netminder.
Poile, as a press box occupant somewhat farther removed from the wrath of the 13,710 fans than Murray, was less upset than his coach by the failures of Parro and Riggin.
"Certainly I'm concerned about it, and if it were midseason I'd be forced to do something," Poile said. "But after only five games, I don't want to hit the panic button. Riggin's been fighting it -- there's no excuse there -- but Parro has been hurt, he's played only two games and two periods since Sept. 12, and maybe he's not ready."
Both Murray and Parro declined to use Parro's sore left shoulder, which kept him idle almost two weeks, as an alibi. "There is nothing wrong with Dave Parro now except his playing," Murray said.
Parro, who yielded four goals in 18 minutes 49 seconds before Riggin replaced him, agreed with Murray. "I'm feeling good and I'm strong," Parro said. "I just didn't come up with a big game. The first goal was a big one. If I could have stopped that, it might have been different."
Craig Ramsay beat Parro on the game's first shot, at the 32-second mark, and Buffalo had an 8-0 lead after 33 minutes. Riggin felt more of the crowd's heat, the fans cheering each routine stop derisively after he let a couple of soft ones get by.
"I apologize to the fans; I was awful," Riggin said. "I wasn't expecting to play, but I should have been ready and instead I was awful. You can't have goaltending like that and win any games. But it's not the first time that's happened, and it won't be the last. You don't always play the way you want to."
There has been considerable pressure on the Capitals to play well early, with those guaranteed sellouts bringing big crowds to the Centre. So far, however, they are 0-2 at home, with high-flying Montreal and Ryan Walter due in Wednesday.
"The players have Sunday off, to give the guys who are ailing a chance to get better. Then I'll work their tails off Monday and try to get ready for the next game," said Murray, who faces some pressure himself in the choice of a starting goalie.