Yanking the National Hockey League's top goaltender after less than 25 minutes of a regular-season game leaves a coach open for a survey of psychological implications with the Stanley Cup playoffs 2 1/2 weeks away. Such a decision yesterday by Philadelphia's Mike Keenan was reinforced when Bob Froese agreed that he had played poorly in the 6-5 loss to the Washington Capitals.
"If I'd played my usual game, we'd have won," Froese said. "No goaltender ever wants to get pulled, and I don't like it, but Mike's the boss. I wasn't having my usual night, and he took me out."
Keenan declined to discuss the possibility that his apparent lack of confidence in Froese might affect the goalie in future confrontations of greater import with the Capitals. Washington Coach Bryan Murray made a point of bringing it up, however.
Keenan merely said, "We did not get the kind of goaltending we usually get, and I thought we could use a change of momentum."
Asked how the Capitals could score so often today after beating him only once in two games at the Spectrum, Froese replied, "Ask the Capitals. I just wasn't playing well."
The Capitals were happy to answer the question, led by Murray, who said, "We've studied him for 10 days, and we think we know what to do. In Philly, he had no traffic in front and no work. Today we put some pressure on him, and he was really struggling."
Scott Stevens said, "In the Spectrum, we never tested him. Today we shot whenever we could. Warren Strelow went over the goalies for us, and he told us to shoot a lot at Froese and to shoot high."
Strelow, the Capitals' goaltenders coach, said, "He tends to go down, and we helped him out up there by keeping the shots low. Today we went high, and you saw the result."
Chico Resch, who relieved Froese and yielded Bob Gould's winning goal, is 37, the NHL's oldest goaltender, and Murray would be delighted to see the Flyers turn to Resch for the playoffs. That probably explains the postgame comment Murray volunteered: "Our putting Froese out of the net could have a tremendous psychological effect on their players."
Resch, like Froese, accepted responsibility for the loss, saying of Gould's carom off post and leg: "A goalie should stop those."
Resch tended to downplay the emergency summons, saying, "It's no big deal, not with the intensity of the game. Coming in 4-3, it was important not to get any further behind. Making a couple of quick saves as he did gets you into it pretty fast.
"I'm sure I'll be in games like this in the playoffs. It is a big difference from a nothing game in our building. But I feel pretty good, and with the playoffs coming up, I'm excited."