Murphy Not Living Up to Reputation

Article excerpt

About halfway through the third period of the Washington Capitals' regular-season finale 1-1 tie against the Buffalo Sabres yesterday at MCI Center, Joe Murphy was hit with a 10-minute game misconduct. Apparently, it was because of something he said to referee Don Koharski.

Some might say, what a surprise. Joe Murphy always gets in trouble when he opens his mouth.

Actually, though, any trouble from the Joe Murphy who has played for the Capitals since being picked up on waivers Feb. 10 is a surprise. The former Boston Bruin who arrived here with baggage in tow has been just the opposite of the reputation he brought with him.

"There were some concerns in the hockey world about this guy being a bad influence, but he has been a great influence in the locker room," said Caps general manager George McPhee.

When Washington got Murphy two months ago, there were some eyebrows raised. After all, the Caps had turned around their season with a remarkable 11-1-2 mark in January, and the team chemistry seemed perfect.

Why put that chemistry in danger by bringing in a player with an all-star reputation as a malcontent, having been suspended by Boston Bruins coach Pat Burns for what was called "insubordination" on Feb. 1 and then waived a week later by the team?

Because Murphy can play. More importantly, Murphy can play when it counts the most - the playoffs.

"There are players who rise to the occasion, who play better in the playoffs," Caps coach Ron Wilson said. "Joe's record indicates that. I'm looking forward to it on Wednesday."

Wilson is looking forward to Murphy putting up the kind of numbers he has over 115 playoff games - 78 points (34 goals and 44 assists).

Two years ago, McPhee brought in Brian Bellows and Esa Tikkanen to help the Caps in what turned out to be the franchise's most successful playoff run ever, all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. Both had played on Stanley Cup winners.

Murphy was a member of the 1990 Edmonton Stanley Cup championship team. Players who have won help teams win.

"He is a big game player, and has played big for us in big games during the regular season," McPhee said. "He is the type of player who is a gamebreaker during the playoffs."

Murphy also had a reputation, though as a team breaker. Drafted number one by the Detroit Red Wings in 1986 (the first U.S. college player to be picked overall), the Caps are Murphy's seventh team in 14 seasons.

He was suspended in Boston when, in a Feb. …