- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Washington Capitals center Jeff Halpern’s stats this season don’t look impressive, which is why stats can be so deceiving.

No goals, six assists, minus-5 defensive rating, 22 penalty minutes in 13 games.

“If he wasn’t doing good things for us, I wouldn’t play him 25 minutes a game, now would I?” coach Glen Hanlon said. “I wouldn’t play him 25 minutes a game if he wasn’t doing things that needed to be done. I don’t base anybody’s ice time on goals scored unless they want to prove that’s all they can do. If they don’t want to play our system, they’d better score 60. If you’re going to miss the bunt signal around here, you’d better hit a home run.”

With no team guide in front of him, Hanlon recited Halpern’s career stats from memory: “He had 18 [goals] one year, 21 I think the next. He dropped down to five that year he was hurt and only played 48 games. …

“You take a look at a person who’s played four or more years in this league, and they establish a level where they’re going to be,” Hanlon said. “If Halpie has zero at the 30-game mark, I know he’ll end up between 15 and 20. But like I said to him, 10 years from now no one will care if you scored 15 or 20. It means nothing. It won’t mean anything to you.”

As one of the few veterans on the team, the Potomac native is Washington’s captain and has taken his leadership role seriously. His game has remained pretty much the same, leaning toward defense, but that lean has been more pronounced this season, when the Caps have developed the uneasy habit of winning close or losing big.

“Halpie is Halpie,” said defenseman Brendan Witt, one of the few players who has been around longer. “The ‘C’ hasn’t changed him. The goals will come. Nobody’s worried about that. But he’s more important to us for winning the key draws, especially on defense, and being one of the main guys in defensive coverage. Nobody cares if he scores.”

Halpern quickly shrugged off the scoring drought by saying, “I’m fine, really,” and moved on to other things without pausing.

“There’s times, especially with a young team, where you have to try to right the ship — along with a lot of other real good veterans,” he said of his captain’s role. “It’s been fun getting guys adjusted to the team and the area, making sure everybody is doing well off and on the ice.”

And the offense?

“If I wasn’t getting chances, I’d be concerned, but I feel I’ve gotten some real good chances lately,” he said. “That can be frustrating, getting chances and not scoring.”

Said Hanlon: “He kills penalties, he’s on the power play, he takes all the important faceoffs — he’s not a problem. He’s part of our solution. I put stock in character people, and he’s a character person. I can’t afford not to have him out there.”

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