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And this goalie makes a difference to the unity of the team. Malarchuk, 26, was traded along with center Dale Hunter from the Quebec Nordiques last June for forwards Alan Haworth and Gaetan Duchesne and a No. 1 draft choice. Yet in the locker room you would think Malarchuk had been a Washington fixture for years.
"No doubt we've been playing for the goaltender," said right wing Mike Gartner after practice last Friday.
"Don't let him give us credit," added Galley.
"Right during play he'll say something to break us all up," said Smith.
Malarchuk's reputation for wise-quacking stems largely from his on-ice impressions of Donald Duck. It's his way of relieving the pressure. "Ask Greg Adams," says Malarchuk when pressed for an explanation. "He's our team psychologist."
"Malarchuk?" says Adams, who's actually a left wing. " Clint Malarchuk is the mayor of Pluto. I've got a few patients in this room, but he's one of my favorites. How can you make any sense at all out of the guy?"
"See what I mean?" says Malarchuk.
When Clint was a boy, his father, Mike, was a goaltender in a senior men's league in Grand Prairie, Alberta. Mike and Clint's mother, Jean, were divorced when Clint was 14. "I took it harder than most," says Malarchuk, who sees his father infrequently. "That's why my mother and I are so close. Anytime I have a problem, I call her, and I'm not ashamed of being called a mama's boy. We went through so much together. She drove me to the rinks at six in the morning."
Jean, who has since remarried, gets on her son for not claiming more credit for his success. "But I'm not really that humble," says Malarchuk. "It's just that I'm not cocky. Mom's here visiting now [at his Upper Marlboro, Md., house, which he shares with his wife, Lori, and their daughter, Kelli, 2], and the night before the Quebec game we were talking about some of my accomplishments. I had back-to-back shutouts in 1985 for Quebec. I guess no one had done it again until I did it against Winnipeg and Minnesota [on Feb. 19 and 20]. Somebody brought it up, and I said, 'Hey, that's right, I did do that, didn't I?' And Mom said, 'Damn right you did it. Wake up, son. You're right up there with the best.' "
Against the Nordiques on Friday, the Caps spotted Quebec two goals but roared back to win 6-2. Malarchuk stopped 26 shots, 17 from point-blank range. In the locker room afterward, Langway crowned and bearded the Mallard with shaving cream.