Since they first skated in Washington uniforms, defensemen Rod Langway and Brian Engblom have been both highly visible and successful. For the Capitals' other two acquisitions in the big Montreal trade, center Doug Jarvis and winger Craig Laughlin, it has been a more difficult transition.
Jarvis has scored one goal, Laughlin three in ice time limited both by their early ineffectiveness and the expansion of the playing roster to 20, which guarantees Coach Bryan Murray the use of four lines in every game.
However, the return of the Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders to Capital Centre tonight at 7 gives Jarvis, Laughlin and linemate Alan Haworth the opportunity to once again display the talents that earned them a place in the fans' hearts and minds.
Two weeks ago, when the Capitals whipped the Islanders here, 3-1, that line hounded New York superstars Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Bob Bourne so efficiently that Islander Coach Al Arbour split up the trio after one period.
For the game, Bossy had two shots on goal, Trottier one and Bourne none. Those remarkable figures, which translated into no goals, can best be evaluated by a look at the latest NHL statistics. Entering last night's game against the Rangers, Bossy led the league in goals with 20, on 75 shots. Trottier had scored 15 in 64, Bourne six in 51.
"That matchup worked so well, I'll certainly try to do it tomorrow at every opportunity," Murray said yesterday. "Craig really did a heck of a job on Bossy. Craig has a bit of meanness in him and he kept in touch with Bossy, bumped him every chance, put his stick in and controlled him. After a while, Bossy was just skating up and down.
"I think our best defensive line right now is probably the (Glen) Currie line (with Bobby Gould and Gaetan Duchesne). But Jarvis does such an excellent job on Trottier that the single matchup is worth the shift. Alan has such great quickness, he puts pressure on anybody he's against not to let him get away. And if Craig can handle Bossy again, it will be a big plus for us."
Jarvis has been battling Trottier for years, not always with success but invariably with tenacity.
"The biggest thing is to be aware of what that line is capable of doing," Jarvis said. "You have to play conservatively. You don't gamble unless you're 100 percent sure of getting the puck. You play a positional game, with a man back all the time, because if you give them a little room, you're in trouble."
As for the formula to contain Bossy, Laughlin said, "I hit him a bit and talk to him, try to distract him. I don't go out of my way to hit him if he doesn't have the puck, but I try to hit him every chance when he does.
"I just pick him up instead of going in to forecheck. He can score from anywhere and I have to prevent him from getting too many shots. If he wants to shoot from far out, okay, but you have to watch him inside."
Both Jarvis and Laughlin have become more acclimated to their new club with the passage of time.
"As each day goes by, I feel more settled," Jarvis said. "I'm really excited about the team. They're a good bunch of guys and I think there's a chance to go places with this hockey team."
"I'm just happy to be here," said Laughlin, while admitting he is not pleased with his abbreviated ice time. "This is a good club and if our line keeps working, I think we'll start to make a bigger contribution. We have a lot of potential -- Haworth can fly, Jarvis makes the good passes. Down the stretch, if other guys get tired, we'll be ready to chip in."