Rod Langway is not kidding himself. He knows he has been playing subpar hockey in recent games. But Langway wants some other members of the Washington Capitals to recognize that they haven't been all that great, either, and to stop casting blame at teammates.
Asked after yesterday's practice if he was getting down on himself because of a series of costly mistakes, Langway replied, "I'm just down on the team. I know I'm not playing well, not coming up with my normal plays.
"I'm giving up some key points and I'll take the blame. But I think the team is negative on everybody. We've got to stop the bitching and moaning and looking for someone else to blame. We've had enough meetings. It's time to get back to our normal selves, make the simple plays and not worry about goals, assists and plus-minus.
"Everybody seems to be worrying about the stats. Guys are satisfied if they've scored a point or come out of a game plus one, whether the team has won or lost. Once you get a greedy attitude like that, you've got problems. The only thing we should be worrying about is winning games."
There should be sufficient concern in that area to occupy all 20 players. The Capitals have won only one of their last nine games and they have yet to hold an opponent under two goals, a feat they accomplished 24 times last season.
"We can't worry about scoring goals," Langway said. "We have to get back to winning games 3-2 and 2-1. We can concentrate on defense and still score four goals a game. We've got enough talent for that.
"Look what we accomplished last year because of our attitude and our desire to play for each other. We don't have that now. We got a lot of individual awards last year, but we didn't win them. The team won them.
"I can be the best defenseman in the world, and we can be a losing club. Mike Gartner can win the scoring championship, and we can be a losing club. We have to play together and then the rewards will be dished out together.
"When we lose, we won't accept our mistakes. Guys blame other guys and it steamrolls. When we lose a game, we have to take the loss seriously and see what each of us could have done to change it, not just say it happened because of the other guy.
"I played poorly at times last year, but other guys picked things up. I'm the captain, but I'm depending on them as much as they're depending on me. Right now we feel tense between each other."
What Langway did not say, but was a principal reason he received the Norris Trophy as top NHL defenseman, was the fact that he picked things up for struggling teammates much of last season. Now his problems have magnified the shortcomings of some of his fellow defensemen.
Langway's stretch of sour luck began against Minnesota Nov. 13. He fell as he backpedaled, and the North Stars' Neal Broten swept past to set up Tom McCarthy for the final goal in a 3-3 tie.
At Buffalo Nov. 16, Langway blocked a shot in the last minute. He thought the puck was under him, but it slipped behind and the Sabres scored the game winner.
At Long Island Tuesday, Mike Bossy flipped the puck into Langway's skates, he failed to gain control and Bryan Trottier poked it into the net for the second goal in the Islanders' 5-3 victory.
Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Langway's attempted clear went right to Mario Lemieux, who set up Warren Young for the final goal of another 3-3 deadlock.
Perhaps the result of Langway's nightly error on Friday augurs a brighter future. Early on, he lost the puck to Greg Gilbert, but Bob Mason made an excellent save to avert a goal. Nevertheless, the Islanders won, 5-1.
"I'm snake bit, Dougie Jarvis is snake bit, the penalty killing is snake bit," Langway said. "We could go out with eight guys and not kill it. It's momentum, and we have to get the ball rolling the other way. When we're on a roll, we can beat anybody. It'll come."
Coach Bryan Murray juggled his lines for tonight's 7 o'clock Capital Centre contest against Chicago. Bob Carpenter centers Alan Haworth and Gartner, Dave Christian is flanked by Craig Laughlin and Bryan Erickson, and Jarvis is between Gaetan Duchesne and Bob Gould . . . Gartner will man the right point on the power play . . . Pat Riggin gets the assignment in the nets . . . Defenseman Dave Shand was assigned to Binghamton after Friday's loss.