When the Washington Capitals played in Buffalo in mid-January, winger Alan Haworth was greeted by enthusiastic applause and several signs, one of which read, "We still love ya, Alan sweetie."
If the Sabres' fans retained fond memories of the young man Scotty Bowman traded away in June, Capitals' loyalists had found little reason, other than Haworth's boyish smile, to feel the same way.
Following a pointless weekend against Buffalo, Haworth could look back on 40 games in which he had scored only six goals. He had a minus-five rating, was carrying a few extra pounds and sought out Coach Bryan Murray for a postpractice discussion of his future.
Based on the results of that conversation and a same-day shift of Haworth to a line with Craig Laughlin and Bobby Carpenter, perhaps Murray deserves recognition as a miracle worker. In the ensuing seven games, of which Washington has lost one, the line has accounted for 13 goals.
Haworth has six, one in each of the last six games, and enters tonight's 7:30 game against Detroit at Capital Centre just two away from the club record streak shared by Dennis Maruk and Mike Gartner. Over the seven games since he met with Murray, Haworth has been plus eight with six assists.
"I was due," Haworth said. "Last year in Buffalo I played 57 games and had 21 goals. Here I was missing a lot of goals, maybe three or four good chances a game. Now I'm starting to get my touch in front of the net.
"But the talk didn't do any harm. I told Bryan what was going wrong and what I'd rather do and he told me what he'd rather see me do. I think it was good to get a few things straightened out."
"I tried to express confidence in him," Murray said. "I was moving him around and maybe because of what he thought was a lack of confidence he was tight out there. He was mishandling the puck and passing up scoring chances.
"Then his weight was a little heavy. I sort of gave him an ultimatum--a week to get it down and get playing or he'd be the guy sitting out."
Haworth's arrival in Washington was little noted, since he missed part of training camp with torn ankle ligaments and media attention was focused on the Montreal Four obtained from the Canadiens.
"The ankle set me back, because it was the second time I'd had torn ligaments and I was kind of shy on it at the beginning," Haworth said. "I didn't mind being overlooked, because guys like Rod (Langway), Brian (Engblom) and Jarvie (Doug Jarvis) were established players, and it was normal to look more to them. The main thing was to play.
"Now I'm starting to get a chance to show what I can do. I hope I can be appreciated here. And I hope my streak goes on forever."