Memories of 1983-84 Caps Season / Ovechkin, Backstrom, Aucoin win Awards

February 01, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

Caps News & Memories of 1983-84 Season

The Caps headed to Boston today to take on the Bruins for tomorrow night’s game in Beantown, where they will seek a club record 11th straight victory. Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post reported this afternoon that the Caps players will have their fathers along for their annual road trip. Last year they took in the state of Florida while this season it will be Boston and then New York. The highlight of last season’s trip was Mike Green’s NHL record breaking 8th straight game with a goal by a defenseman in Tampa. Michal Neuvirth also picked up his first NHL victory. Could this year’s excursion be highlighted by a club record 11th straight win?

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post put together this great blog on the last time the Caps won 10 straight games, back in 1984. That was a great season for the Caps and Steinberg’s piece brings back some fond memories of being a 19 year old freshman at the University of Maryland who was a partial plan holder at the Capital Centre for a sport I fell in love with during the early 80’s after Rod Langway came to town.

Here are some of my recollections from that season:

– Early on the Caps were horrible after making their first ever playoff appearance in the spring of 1983 (lost to the Stanley Cup champion Islanders, 3 games to 1, in the first round). I remember being at the fifth game of the season in which they were defeated by the Penguins to drop to 0-5. They were playing so badly that me and one of my friends went down to the Showcase restaurant area and watched the Baltimore Orioles defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the World Series on television. Washington lost two more games and GM David Poile would trade defenseman Brian Engblom to the Los Angeles Kings for Larry Murphy. It was a great trade and to this day I don’t think Poile ever wanted to get rid of Murphy (a four time Stanley Cup Champion and NHL Hall of Famer), but because of the abuse #8 took from his own fans at the Capital Centre (the start of the “whoops”), the GM would move him at the deadline in 1989 to Minnesota in the Dino Ciccarelli deal (along with Mike Garnter; defenseman Bob Rouse came from the North Stars along with Dino).

– The winning streak was an amazing run and I attended the 8-2 bombing of the Oilers (sans Wayne Gretzky). Back then not every Capitals game was on tv so my Dad, who covered the Caps for the PG Post at the time (he also used to have a three hour sports radio show on WLMD in the mid-70’s), and I listened to Ron Weber broadcast the end of the streak in Winnipeg on WTOP 1500 AM. It was a great contest and I remember how crushed I was hearing Weber call out the awful Murphy/Pat Riggin giveaway and misplay that ended a great run.

– The team got very hot down the stretch and finished 48-27-5 for 101 points and were second in the Patrick Division to a somewhat aging Islanders team, who had just won their fourth straight Stanley Cup the previous season. The first round series was going to be against Coach Bob McCammon and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were led by Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, and Dave Poulin but also had veteran stars Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sittler. They had also dressed two young feisty twins named Ron and Rich Sutter, who were universally despised by Caps fans. Back then the first round was a best of five but Washington gave Philly no chance and smoked them in three straight. The best game was the clincher at the Spectrum, where even Bobby Carpenter and Mike Gartner both dropped the gloves with a different Sutter en route to a total Flyer butt whipping.

– Washington had momentum going into the Islanders series while New York had struggled to defeat their cross town rival Rangers in five games, winning the final contest in overtime. It might have been the only time in my life that I rooted for the Rangers to win! It was an incredible game, one of the best I’ve ever seen. I recall Mark Pavelich and Don Maloney having great scoring chances with one of them hitting a post on a shot that would have given the Blueshirts the victory, but when it was all over, Washington would have to take on the four time champs. The Caps won game one up in Uniontown and then in game two the Islanders jumped out to a quick first period lead but Washington pulled Al Jensen, put in Riggin, and nearly won the contest, only to lose in OT, 5-4. Thus game three was going to be the pivotal one of the series and I had a ticket in the second row behind the Caps net. It was a low scoring affair and the game, and the series in my opinion, turned on a weird penalty call on Carpenter. No, it wasn’t a trip or hook where an Islander player took a dive, it was an equipment infraction – #10 had a hole in his glove and was given a two minute minor! Well from there New York scored on the power play and went on to a 3-1 victory that just crushed the Caps and their fans. The Isles then won games 4 and 5 fairly easily to end the Capitals season.

Ovechkin, Backstrom Win Awards

The organization announced some more awards courtesy of both the NHL and AHL this afternoon. Let’s start with the NHL where Alexander Ovechkin was named the NHL Player of the Month (aka the first star, Henrik Sedin of the Canucks was second while Tomas Vokoun of Florida was the third star) for January. In addition, the Great #8’s centerman, Nicklas Backstrom, was named the third star of this past week (Forward Shane Doan of Phoenix was the first star while goalie Brian Elliott of Ottawa was the second). Here are the award write-ups for both Ovechkin and Backstrom, courtesy of the Caps Media Relations Department:

Ovechkin led all scorers in January with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) and posted a +16 rating in 15 games, helping the Capitals go 13-2-0 and finish the month with a franchise record-tying 10-game winning streak. Named team captain Jan. 5, Ovechkin tallied eight multiple-point games thereafter, beginning with three points (one goal, two assists), a +4 rating and 10 shots on goal in a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators Jan. 7. He tallied his first career four-assist game and tied a career high with five points in a 6-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 15 and notched three points (two goals, one assist) in a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Jan. 21. Ovechkin closed the month by scoring the game-winning goal in the third period of a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Jan. 31. The reigning Hart and Richard Trophy winner ranks second in the NHL in goals (35), second in points (76), first in shots (248) and first in plus/minus (+35).

Backstrom paced the League’s highest-scoring offense with seven points (two goals, five assists) and posted a +6 rating as the Capitals (37-12-6) tied a franchise record by extending their winning streak to 10 games. He notched one assist in victories over the New York Islanders (7-2, Jan. 26) and Anaheim Ducks (5-1, Jan. 27), notched a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers Jan. 29 and finished the week with one goal and one assist in a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Jan. 31. The 22-year-old center ranks second on the Capitals in scoring and sixth in NHL with 63 points (23 goals, 40 assists). He already has set a single-season career high in goals, eclipsing the 22 from last season.

Aucoin Wins Award

Also receiving an award in the Capitals organization is forward Keith Aucoin of the Hershey, who was named the AHL Player of the Month for January. Here is the press release courtesy of John Walton, who is the Bears Senior Manager of Communications:

The American Hockey League announced today that Hershey Bears center Keith Aucoin has been named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for January. Aucoin erupted for 35 points in 14 games on the month, registering 12 goals and 23 assists along with a plus-11 rating.
Aucoin averaged 2.50 points per game in January, a scorching pace that vaulted him to the top of the league leaderboard in goals, assists and points. Among his 10 multiple-point performances were five three-point efforts and three four-point nights, and he capped the month by becoming the 42nd player in AHL history to reach 600 career points with a goal and two assists on Jan. 31 vs. Binghamton. Aucoin had at least one assist in every game, and he enters February with a 16-game assist streak – one game shy of the all-time AHL record. He also appeared in his fifth consecutive AHL All-Star Classic last month and scored his first career All-Star goal.
In recognition of his achievement, Aucoin will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Bears home game.
Aucoin sits first in the AHL with 28 goals, 43 assists and 71 points in 41 games for Hershey in 2009-10. He ranks second with seven game-winning goals – including three in January – and fourth with his plus-26 rating. In 546 games over nine AHL seasons, Aucoin has registered 187 goals and 413 assists (good for 24th all-time) for 600 points. He has added eight goals and 18 assists in 74 career NHL games, including a goal and four assists in nine contests with Washington this year.