Laughlin Remembers Streak of '84
Caps TV analyst recalls the 1983-84 season and the team's 10-game winning streak
Caps.com: What do you remember off the top of your head about that streak?
Laughlin: “I think the idea in the locker room that we just knew we weren’t going to lose. We went into every game knowing that we were going to win. We had a great locker room and we had great leaders. And Bryan Murray – like [Bruce] Boudreau does with this team – kept the pedal down. He didn’t let us off. We always thought we’d have a light skate or something and all of a sudden we’d have a bag skate instead, to keep us sharp and to keep us fresh and to keep our legs moving.
“The one thing I do remember we always had during that time frame, we always had songs that were played in the locker room at the same time. The same song played by the same person starting them on a cassette recorder. Not an eight-track [laughs]. We traveled with it on the road.
“That year we always had the same song, and it was “Break On Through” by The Doors. Davey Christian always pushed the play button. [Rod Langway] would say, five minutes before warm-up, ‘Okay boys, we’re ready,’ and you couldn’t talk for the next five minutes because The Doors’ song was on.
“And [general manager] David Poile, after the streak, he gave us each a tape of the song because it represented what we were trying to achieve during that stretch there.”
Caps.com: Tell me about that Edmonton game [a 9-2 win over the Oilers at Capital Centre]. So many people remember that one.
Laughlin: “It was a Sunday afternoon. We just came out flying and they didn’t know what hit them. I remember [Edmonton goalie] Grant Fuhr, he might have got yanked that game. We were just on a roll. Everything that we touched, no matter who touched it and no matter the turnover that they had, it was in their net. I just remember looking over at [Oilers Mark] Messier and [Glenn] Anderson and Randy Gregg [Wayne Gretzky was injured] and all these great players and I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve arrived.’
“It was a little bit of an eye-opener for our team because we were young, we were sort of up-and-coming and nobody really gave us any credit. But when we waxed that team, all of a sudden we knew where we stood. That was sort of a mark for our season. We wanted to show them, and we did that afternoon. The place was crazy and we just scored on every chance we could.
“We were a quick strike team. We resembled this [2009-10 Caps] team a lot because we had balance. We had four lines. [Doug Jarvis] would shut them down but he also scored some big goals and so did [Gaetan Duchesne]. We had our top line and when they weren’t going our second or third line would pick it up. And really, [Caps coach] Bryan Murray never put numbers on lines. He played everybody. We rolled, and Bryan and [assistant coach] Terry [Murray] did a heck of a job. We had a blast and it was fun. When you win, it’s fun. The locker room is lively and there’s no moaning and complaining about ice time. There’s none of that.
“Off the ice, we had a blast. On the ice, we had a blast. Those type of streaks can often be something meaningful for the future. It can mean something for the playoffs and it means something for your mentality and how you feel about yourself.
“The goal scorers, if they’re in a slump and they get a goal, they feel great. The pluggers, when they score, all of a sudden now they feel they can score. The defensemen would shut down the power play and we had great penalty killing with [Glen] Kid Currie, with Jarvie, with Gates, Bobby Gould, Davey Christian and Gussie. We had three units. And the power play would go out and score or [Scott] Stevens would crush somebody or drop his mitts and just drill a guy. Everything was on. Everybody was on the same page.”
Caps.com: What do you remember about the game in Winnipeg where the streak finally stopped?
Laughlin: “All I remember is we came in there and we always played great against the Jets. It was a great time and great town to play in. The one thing I remember about it was walking back to our motel after the pre-game skate. You’d walk to a motel called the Viscount Court, and I think it’s still there next to the old Winnipeg Arena. We’d have to sort of walk through buildings because if we walked outside our [wet] hair would freeze immediately.
“So we were taking sort of a side route, and we finally just said ‘Ah, who cares?’ And our hair was just frozen. We got back, had a pre-game meal, took a nap and we were all set for the game. I just felt good about the game. We were dominating. We played great.
“I don’t think I was on for the final goal. It was in overtime. I was sitting on the bench. And all I remember was Queen Elizabeth. That’s all I remember, the queen. [There was a huge painting of Queen Elizabeth that hung from the rafters at the Winnipeg Arena.]
"[Winnipeg's] Dougie Smail outraced everybody – in his day he was one of the fastest guys in the NHL – and he just went by our ‘D’ and, boom! That was it.”
“I look back and we reeled a little bit for the next few games on the road. It was real deflating coming off a winning streak and you lose. And now it’s like, ‘How are we going to get back to winning again?’ You’re in a lull and you’re down in the dumps a little bit. And then all of a sudden I think we ended up winning like 15 of the next 18 [12-2-1, actually]. We started to dominate again. You get your confidence back because you had such a good run.
“But there often is a rut after a winning streak. And we had a run. We did not play well for a few games.”
Caps.com: What do you think happened to you guys in the playoffs that year?
Laughlin: “We swept the Flyers pretty handily. It was very easy. The Islanders were still the kings of the hill. We were up that series, 1-0. We came in as the favorites and I think you’ve got to learn to lose before you learn to win.
“You’re flying along and you’re flying along, but the stakes are so high that one little mistake can set it apart.
“I think I coughed the puck up at center. I still remember the bad play I made in the playoffs. It was against the Islanders, I know that for sure. And it was at the Cap Centre, I know that for sure. I am pretty sure it was that year, maybe Game 3 or 4.
“I was playing the left side; somehow I got caught on the left side. I remember a rink-wide pass from Langway. I got it, and I was a right shot playing the left side. In our day and age, that was sort of weird. So I was there at center ice and it’s engrained in my brain to this day.
“I got the puck and I saw Alan Haworth, and I think Langway and there were like three guys jumping into the play on the far side of the rink. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to get it and I’m going to give a quick look and make a pass.’
“I saw everybody but I didn’t see Andres Kallur. And Anders Kallur picked off the pass at center ice. I still see it as clear as day. A breakawy. All alone. And I can still see the players looking at me. Rocket Langway looking at me. It was the worst play I ever made. It’s still etched in my mind. It’s the one play in the playoffs I remember. I can’t remember any of my goals. I can’t remember anything about that series other than that pass I sent that Anders Kallur intercepted. And he went in from center ice and buried it.
“I’m not sure if that was our undoing, but it was a big part of our loss.”