Washington Capitals goaltender Jim Carey, the 20-year-old who has been simply amazing since being called up for his first NHL game March 2, made history yesterday, when he became the first NHL rookie to win Player of the Month outright.
Winnipeg right wing Teemu Selanne won the award two years ago, but shared it with Buffalo right wing Alex Mogilny.
Carey, who also earned Rookie of the Month honors, is the first NHL player to win both in the same month and the first to win either in his first month of NHL play.
Carey is 11-2-2 for March with a league-leading 1.78 goals-against-average going into today's game against the Boston Bruins. During March he also led the league in games (15), wins (11) and shutouts (3).
Yesterday, when assistant coach Keith Allain told him the news as he was warming up on the ice for prac-tice, Carey simply grinned and said, "Oh, yeah?"
Washington general manager David Poile said he is a little amazed by Carey and what he has inspired the Capitals to accomplish this month.
"It's like we've had two different seasons," Poile said. "In the first one we were 3-10-5 and in the second we're 11-2-2. We weren't as bad as our early record, but we seemed to lose our confidence. Now that Jim has come along, and some of our other players are playing better, we can see what individual performances can do in terms of team confidence and production."
One of the others doing the producing is Peter Bondra, who has a league-leading seven-game goal scoring streak. He also has 14 goals in March, one short of Quebec's Owen Nolan's NHL high of 15.
Bondra is the last Washington player to earn Rookie of the Month, taking the honor in November 1990.
The only other Capital to win NHL Player of the Month was Mike Gartner in February 1987.
"We've had the hottest goaltender, the hottest goal-scorer and been the second- or third-best team in the league in team defense," said Poile. "Those are three pretty big factors that add up to where we are. But this is like the army. We've got to earn our stripes everyday. As good as we've been, we still find ourselves losing several spots in the standings if we lose or simply don't play one night, and vaulting over two or three teams when we do win.
"That's how close everything is and with just 15 games left, that's how close it will be to secure a playoff spot at the finish."
NOTE: With the league trading deadline Friday, Poile said he will talk with his coaches to see where "we want to go" and then "I'll touch base with just about every team to see if there is a reason to make a move before the deadline." The Capitals wouldn't mind picking up a goal scorer for the Joe Juneau-centered line. Steve Konowalchuk and rookie Martin Gendron, who got his first NHL goal Friday against Quebec, have played well over the past
two games, picking up seven points.
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Time: 3 p.m.
TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WMAL (630 AM)
Outlook: The Capitals (14-12-7) are coming off Friday's 6-4 victory over the league-leading Quebec Nordiques. Boston (17-13-2) lost yesterday to the New York Rangers, 3-2. Capitals LW Craig Berube (flu) is day-to-day. The team will be without C Dave Poulin (groin) and LW Keith Jones (foot and ribs) and goalies Rick Tabaracci (on loan to Chicago of IHL) and Olie Kolzig (assigned to Portland of AHL). Boston D Al Iafrate (knee surgery) and RW Daniel Marois (back surgery) are out.