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SI Flashback: Stanley Cup 1986

IN THE END THE HABS SURE HAD IT
Montreal over Calgary in five games
Conn Smythe winner: Patrick Roy, Montreal

Montreal downed Calgary in five games to win the Stanley Cup

By E.M. Swift

  June 2, 1986 June 2, 1986 David E. Klutho
It was not exactly your classic exit, but then this was not exactly you classic Stanley Cup final. How could it have been? The seventh-place Montreal Canadiens against the sixth-place Calgary Flames. A couple of better-than-average teams that had worked very, very hard to get there, leaving much of themselves behind. So it seemed to make sense for the season to end with the soon-to-be-crowned Stanley Cup champions -- Les Canadiens sont là! Les Canadiens sont là! -- running around in a panic for the first time since the start of the playoffs, watching the seconds tick down and their lead dwindle form three goals, to two goals, to one, to ... mon Dieu! What a save! Better for the season to end like that, with the MVP of these playoffs, 20-year-old rookie goalie Patrick Roy, dousing the Flames' improbable comeback on Saturday night with one last diving stop in the final 14 seconds. That save preserved a 4-3 victory in Game 5 and gave the Canadiens their 23rd Stanley Cup. By comparison, the New York Yankees have won 22 World Series ...

Midway through the third period [of Game 5] ... the outcome seemed to be settled. Then, inexplicably, Montreal began to play like a team with eight rookies -- which it has had all along -- allowing the seemingly burnt-out Flames back into the game. Steve Bozek scored from Roy's doorstep at 16:46, and then with 46 seconds left Joe Mullen -- who was back in action for Game 5, albeit with a neck brace -- made it 4-3 after the Flames had pulled their goalie.

Suddenly Jamie Macoun was standing alone in front of the Canadiens' goal, the puck on his stick and an open net before him with 14 second remaining on the clock. Roy dived, Macoun shot and the puck hit the Montreal netminder's stick. Roy covered the puck, and the win -- the Canadiens' fourth in a row over the Flames -- was fianlly as iced as the champagne cooling in the Montreal dressing room. "Tonight was my turn to play a great game," said Roy, who had a 1.92 goals-against average in postseason play. "I was lucky I guess."

Maybe the league was lucky, too. After a crazy playoff year filled with a staggering number of upsets and not a little controversy, after a dramaless Stanley Cup finals that was overshadowed by senseless brawling, Les Canadiens sont là! The Canadiens, who year in and year out give this troubled sport more class than it sometimes deserves, are back on top. Any season that ends with the Cup in Montreal can't be all that crazy.

They said it ...

"Patrick's been our stopper all along," said 34-year-old defenseman Larry Robinson, drenched in champagne and hoisting the Cup to his lips for the sixth time in his great career. "I've been waiting seven years for this. You'd have to say that this one is more special than the others since I'm not exactly at the peak of my career."

Good things come in three (and four)
Montreal took control of this series -- the first all-Canadian final in 19 years -- early in the week, when, after a split in the first two games in Calgary, the venue shifted tot he Montreal Forum. The Canadiens' home record up to that point in the playoffs was eight wins and one loss, but that wasn't Calgary's biggest problem. The Flames were not only tired from consecutive seven-game series against Edmonton and St. Louis -- Calgary's 22 postseason games established an NHL record -- but they were also hurting. Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Gary Suter, the Flames' best defenseman at moving the puck up to the forwards, was out with strained ligaments in his right knee. Center Carey Wilson, a key man at face-offs, was recovering from surgery for a ruptured spleen. Colin Patterson, the type of mucking winger who could cause havoc in the slot, was hospitalized with the flu, and tough guy Nick Fotiu, who had played well and picked up an assist in Game 1, was sidelined with a bruised derriere.

Consequently, the Flames came up short on all these elements -- breakouts, face-offs, slot-mucking, toughness -- in Game 3. After taking a 2-1 first-period lead on power-play goals by Mullen and Joel Otto, Calgary watched in passive horror as the Canadiens, who had averaged three goals per 60 minutes in their previous 17 postseason games, exploded for three in 68 seconds. Bobby Smith, Mats Naslund and Bob Gainey all connected in the waning moments of the first period, chasing Calgary goaltender Mike Vernon. Montreal then returned to the game it knows best -- defense -- and spent the rest of the evening glomming on to the leg-weary Flames.

Vintage Claude Lemieux
Montreal's style was never more apparent than in Game 4, a 1-0 Canadien win that unraveled into a bloody, seamy scrum at game's end ...

At the end of two periods, the game was scoreless. Then, with 8:50 remaining Calgary center Doug Risebrough tried a cross-ice clearing pass, which was intercepted by Montreal rookie Claude Lemieux, the surprise offensive star for the Canadiens in these playoffs. Lemieux took two strides and unloaded a blistering slap shot through Vernon's pads for the game's only goal. It was Lemieux's 10th goal of the postseason, and his fourth game-winner.

After the final buzzer the Flames led by a frustrated Risebrough, began spoiling for a fight. Both benches cleared, and for 10 minutes all manner of embarrassment befell the NHL's showcase event -- eyes were gouged, punches were thrown, a finger was bitten ... The next day league president John Ziegler fined the two teams a total of $42,000. Asked for his reaction to the NHL's apparent outrage, Calgary co-captain Jim Peplinski, whose right index finger bore the toothmarks of the ubiquitous Lemieux, answered dryly, "Did they say anything about cannibalism?"

"If Lemieux survives he's going to be a good player," said Montreal head coach Jean Perron, "but everyone hates him so much that I worry. If I had to coach against him, I think I would hate him, too."

Issue date: June 2, 1986

The Joyless End to Edmonton's Joyride
[Ed. Note: Excerpts follow from SI's coverage of the Smythe Division finals, where the Oilers dynasty ended.]

All dressed up with nowhere to go. That's the way the Edmonton Oilers looked last Friday afternoon as they straggled out of their dressing room in ones and twos for the annual team picture. Warm up your smiles, fellas. Cheeeese. As workmen dismantled the boards in Northlands Coliseum, a dozen or so teenyboppers milled about as the players listlessly stepped on the ice. Few of the Oilers acknowledged their presence.

Don Jackson and Esa Tikkanen, the first two players out of the dressing room, lay down on their backs on the bleachers and stared blankly at the ceiling, their thoughts -- where? -- perhaps just two days away, back to Wednesday night's 3-2 loss to the hard-working Calgary Flames in the seventh game of the Smythe Division finals. Back to a game-winning goal so bizarre, so shocking, so unforgettably inept that it seemed fated: a casual third-period pass from Edmonton's rookie defenseman Steve Smith that deflected into the Oilers' net off the back of goaltender Grant Fuhr's leg. It took the heart out of the team -- the Oilers had trailed 2-zip before mounting a comeback to tie the game -- and gave renewed impetus to the Flames, who saw to it that their gift goal held up. End of game, end of season, end of the incipient Edmonton dynasty, which most everyone had predicted would last for years to come. After a two-year joyride at the top of the NHL, the Oilers were outside the playoffs, looking inside themselves.
-- Armen Keteyian and Donald Ramsay

Issue date: May 12, 1986

 


 
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