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SI Flashback: Stanley Cup 1993

SAVING GRACE
Montreal over Los Angeles in five games
Conn Smythe winner: Patrick Roy, Montreal

In a final series to remember, Montreal Canadien goalie Patrick Roy helped deliver both the Cup and his first daughter

By E.M. Swift

  June 14, 1993 David I. Klutho
A small gesture, to be sure, but one as debilitating under the circumstances as the most thunderous bodycheck. Montreal Canadien goaltender Patrick Roy merely looked at his opponent and winked.

What had he been thinking? Deep into overtime in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals on June 7, with the Los Angeles King forwards literally knocking at his goalmouth, Roy stoned Luc Robitaille and froze the puck. Then, impishly, he glanced at the Kings' Tomas Sandstrom and flicked his left eyelash, like some kid in a street hockey game. This amused, unharried wink was surely one of the most memorable in hockey history. What did this outrageous gesture mean?

That Roy was cocky? That he was loose? That the puck looked as big to him as a manhole cover? That the snakebitten Kings, who had already suffered two straight backbreaking overtime losses to the Canadiens and were about to suffer their third, could play till Sunset Boulevard froze over and never poke the puck past Roy in OT? ...

With a 16-4 record and a 2.13 goals-against average in the playoffs, Roy atoned for what had been, for him, a mediocre regular season under first-year coach Jacques Demers, who had introduced Montreal to a more wide-open style than the Canadiens had played in recent years. "The one thing as a coach I'll take credit for," said Demers after the playoffs, "is I stood with Patrick. I was not going to let him get down on himself after he gave up a soft goal against Quebec. He was just outstanding, sensational." ...

Roy, who lives in the Montreal suburb of Rosemere, was troubled by a poll taken in January by a local paper in which a majority of the respondents thought he should be traded. Those rumblings increased when the Canadiens dropped the first two games to Quebec in the Adams Division semifinals, and Roy's critics could point out that he had allowed soft goals in both defeats. NORDIQUES WIN GAME, BATTLE OF GOALIES read one headline. The subhead added, (Quebec goalie Ron) HEXTALL GETS BETTER OF ROY.

Demers resisted calls to start backup Andre Racicot in Game 3 and stayed true to a preseason promise that he would stand behind Roy all season. Ever superstitious, Roy figured it was time to change his luck. He switched the order in which he skated around the face-off circles before warming up, a ritual he had faithfully followed for seven years ...

The Canadiens, and Roy, reeled off a record-tying 11 consecutive playoff wins. Seven of them came in overtime, including two marathon victories over the New York Islanders, who saw Roy thwart both Benoit Hogue and Pierre Turgeon on breakaways in consecutive OT games.

Roy credited, of all people, former Islander great Mike Bossy for having given him a tip on how to play breakaways. "It was two years ago, and one day he said to me that on breakaways you must protect the five-hole," says Roy, referring to the triangle between the legs, "because if a guy has to go top shelf (high), he misses most of the time."

As the playoffs progressed it seemed as if the Canadiens actually played for overtime, repeatedly dumping the puck in the last 10 minutes of the third period and then turning their offense loose in the extra frame. "We didn't mind going into overtime," says Roy. "I knew my teammates were going to score goals if I gave them some time. My concentration was at such a high level. My mind was right there. I felt fresh, like I could stop everything."

Fresh? Every other new father who has been through natural childbirth feels like going home and sleeping for 40 days. Here was Roy, at the end of the longest hockey season on record, shuttling between Los Angeles and Montreal, cities 2,500 miles apart, in the Stanley Cup finals, saying how wonderfully rested he felt. Winking at the opposition to prove it. Tired, Tomas? Not me.

His presence in goal seemed to sap the energy from the Kings as much as it buoyed the Canadiens, who played better and better as the finals progressed. "When Patrick Roy makes a promise, he keeps it," said Montreal forward Mike Keane after the Canadiens, in a bit of historical justice, took home the 100th Stanley Cup with a dominating 4-1 win at home in Game 5. "He isn't an outspoken guy, but he said he was going to shut the door tonight, and he did."

In the wink of an eye.

They said it ...

"Always Sandstrom is in my crease, bothering me, hitting at me when I have the puck," Roy (pronounced WAH) said. "When I made the save on Robitaille, Sandstrom hit me. So I winked. I wanted to show him I'd be tough. That I was in control."

Issue date: June 21, 1993

Crooked stick steals Game 2 from Kings
[Ed. Note: Excerpts follow from SI's coverage of Games 1 and 2, in which, through a bizarre twist, Barry Melrose's team was undone by an illegal curve.]

Dead. Dead on the frozen water. Dead as smelt. Lifeless, inanimate, without a snowball's chance in hell. That's where the Stanley Cup aspirations of the Montreal Canadiens stood.

They had already dropped the opening game of the finals to the Los Angeles Kings, and now they trailed 2-1 in Game 2 with but 1:45 remaining. Only two NHL teams had ever lost the first two games at home and gone on to win the Stanley Cup, and that hadn't been done since 1966. What to do? wondered Montreal coach Jacques Demers, scanning his bench for a legend waiting to be discovered. No Richards -- Maurice or Henri. No Howie Morenz. No Jean Beliveau. No Boom-Boom Geoffrion or Guy Lafleur.

Demers looked out on the ice for inspiration. He saw King goalie Kelly Hrudey, who to that point in the series had allowed only two goals in 118 minutes. We're dead, he thought. He saw L.A. defenseman Marty McSorley, and ... bingo!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Demers tapped his captain, Guy Carbonneau, on the shoulder and told him to ask referee Kerry Fraser to measure the curve on the blade of McSorley's stick. Since early in Game 1 the Canadiens had suspected it was illegal. But Demers sat on those suspicions until he felt he had nowhere else to turn. Had he been wrong, the Canadiens would have been penalized for delay of game. But in what was, after four games, the defining moment in this strange Stanley Cup final series, Fraser found McSorley's blade was curved more than the legal half inch -- a quarter inch more, the NHL's chief of officials, Bryan Lewis, later estimated. McSorley received a two-minute penalty.

Demers turned it into a six-on-four advantage by pulling Patrick Roy out of the Canadien net, a daring move made necessary by the grim fact that the Montreal power play was riding an 0-for-32 streak extending back to the conference finals against the New York Islanders and was 0 for 11 against the Kings. The strategy worked to a T. Make that, to an OT. Thirty-two seconds after Roy was pulled, defenseman Eric Desjardins scored his second goal of the night to tie the game at 2-all. Never mind the replays that clearly showed Canadien forward John LeClair in the crease. Fraser, who had called a raft of ticky-tacky penalties throughout the game, robbing it of any flow, allowed Desjardins's goal to stand.

The score sent the Forum crowd howling with ghostlike glee -- whooooo! whooooo! -- as white-sheeted specters flitted across the electronic message board. The storied Forum ghosts had struck again, just as they had in 1979, when the Don Cherry -coached Boston Bruins were given their infamous too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. This was just as unimaginable. An illegal stick? In the Stanley Cup finals? NHL coaches routinely warn their players in the last five minutes of a game to check their equipment. Players are told if there's any doubt at all to switch to a stick they know is legal. No such warning was given on the Kings' bench, and McSorley, caught up in the excitement of the moment, went brain dead. The Forum spirits had struck again, snatching victory for the bleu, blanc et rouge from what seemed to be certain defeat. It took just 51 seconds of overtime for Desjardins to pump another shot past Hrudey, making him the first defenseman ever to score a hat trick in the Stanley Cup finals and knotting the series at one game apiece.
-- E.M. Swift

Issue date: June 14, 1993

 


 
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