THE DEFINING DOZEN: No. 5
Druce catches ‘lightning in a bottle’
NOTE: Caps Extra will count down each week with one of the top 12 events in Washington Capitals’ history.
For seven straight years the Washington Capitals were fixtures in the NHL postseason, but only for a brief stay. That all changed in the spring of 1990 when a 24-year-old kid had one of the most memorable postseasons in league history.
John Druce split the 1989-90 season, his second with Washington, between the big club and Baltimore of the American Hockey League. Then it just happened – 14 goals in 15 postseason contests and he helped carry the Capitals into the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
“Druce played on the second line some, but he was basically a third-line winger,” former Capitals radio play-by-play man Ron Weber said. “A good guy who tried hard but among NHL players wasn’t especially talented. But during that golden playoff run, well, everything he shot just went in.”
It started in the opening round against New Jersey when Druce collected three goals, including the game-winner in two of the four victories. Then a guy who only had eight regular-season goals in 45 games poured in nine in a five-game series victory against the New York Rangers.
The Capitals were minus Dino Ciccarelli and needed someone to fill the void, and that someone was Druce. He even notched the game-winner in overtime in Game 5 to finish the series.
“There was nobody more amazed than he,” Weber said. “His teammates kidded him but admired him at the same time. There was this aura about him as it went on.”
A magical run ended in the conference finals as the Boston Bruins swept Washington in four games, even though Druce did add two more tallies to his total. He would play 37 more playoff games after the spring of 1990, but there would only be three more postseason goals for Druce and never more than one per year.