- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

Jaromir Jagr, who knows a little something about scoring, admitted the Washington Capitals' current state of offense is frustrating, but he is not alarmed.

"I don't want to bring up Pittsburgh again," the five-time scoring champion said, "but they were supposed to be the highest-scoring team ever but we went through that, even a long time ago. Now it's a lot tougher to score."

The subject was scoring and the fact the Caps aren't doing a lot of it lately. Take away a 4-3 overtime win over Florida a week ago today and Washington has scored a total of one goal in its last three games, and the one that did get through only produced a tie.

"In Atlanta, it's not like we didn't have any scoring chances," Jagr said, referring to a 1-0 loss. There is general agreement that the team had plenty of scoring chances Tuesday night against Philadelphia, but that was a 3-0 defeat.

"Tuesday night," coach Ron Wilson said, referring to the Flyers, "they had one scoring chance in the first period, and two pucks went in. One's a bad bounce. We're just not scoring, and unfortunately the other team is scoring at times early in the game and putting us back on the defensive, which increases the pressure to try to score."

Washington has been outscored 11-7 in opening periods and has scored the first goal in only two of 12 games. That leaves the team trying to dig itself out of a hole almost every time it plays.

"The first period we had three shots on goal, and that's not enough, especially when we're playing at home," said defenseman Calle Johansson. "We've got to put more shots on net, and that comes from being gritty. We're a grittier team that we're showing right now."

Jagr was acquired in an effort to finally solve the franchise's long-term problem of rarely having enough offense, but he was injured Oct. 10, missed three games and is still not 100 percent. The pain in his knee comes and goes; there are times when he glides smoothly over the ice and other times when he obviously is struggling.

Asked if his star is completely healthy, Wilson replied, "It's hard to say. There's a lot of pressure on him to try to score, and as a group we have to shoulder the burden of trying to create offense. It doesn't rest in one or two guys' hands."

There is the fear that some players are counting on Jagr or Peter Bondra (nine goals in his first 10 games) to erase these early deficits and bail the team out in the closing minutes, such as with Bondra's overtime goal in Florida.

"If we're doing that, we're definitely on the wrong track," said Johansson. "We've got to do our own thing and let Jagr add what he can add. We've got to keep playing the same gritty game we've always played, and he'll add all the skill stuff. That's when we become a better team. If we're all going to try to play his game or let him do all the work, it won't work. We're 20 guys out there; everybody's got to do their own thing."

To Trevor Linden, who has played for four teams and been captain of two of them, it's a matter of 20 players trying to mold themselves into a team.

"We know we have the components of a good hockey team, but we have to make ourselves into a good team and that doesn't happen in five or 10 games," he said. "It takes time to build yourself into a team. It's one thing to have good people on paper; it's another to have a good team."

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