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SI Flashback: Stanley Cup 1970-1979
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979

Boston over St. Louis in four games
Conn Smythe winner: Bobby Orr, Boston

By Leo Monahan

 1970 cover
The Blues are the best of the West, but that is not saying much. In three straight cup finals they have failed to win a single game ... (At least the NHL governors have decided on a "crossover" in the 1971 playoffs. East and West will play an interlocking schedule in the semifinals, thus assuring the two strongest teams in the final.) ...

Unless the expansion teams can muster enough votes to change [an uphill battle for acquiring talent], they can forget about a Stanley Cup championship for at least another decade. Boston went 29 years between titles, but it appears now to be building a dynasty anchored by Bobby Orr, who, of course, is only 22 and this season was the winner of three of the NHL's six major trophies: Hart (most valuable player), Ross (the scoring champion) and Norris (best defenseman) ...

The Bruins, meanwhile, played better than they had all season. The line of Fred Stanfield, Johnny Bucyk and Johnny McKenzie surpassed a record for playoff points that was set in 1955 by Detroit's famous Gordie Howe - Earl Reibel - Ted Lindsay combination. Goalie Gerry Cheevers also set a record with 10 consecutive playoff victories. Steady Eddie Westphal was exceptional killing penalties and winning face-offs. His linemate, Derek Sanderson, wasn't bad; he won no fewer than 18 of his 24 face-offs in the second game. Both scored shorthanded goals ...

Throughout the sweep, Boston Coach Harry Sinden refused to belittle the Blues, although it was obvious they were overmatched. Sinden was particularly tense before the third game, when the Blues switched to Glenn Hall in goal. "These damn papers have us winning four straight," he said. "Mr. Hall could have a lot to say about that." Hall did. He blocked 42 shots in acrobatic fashion, but four others got by him. After that game, dewed with nervous perspiration, Sinden relaxed a little. He turned an ear to the shouting in the dressing room nearby. "You don't think those guys are going to lose Sunday, do you?" he asked with a smile.

On Sunday the Blues came close ... with an admirable couterattack -- a spasm of vigor that carried them to a 3-2 lead in the third period. That Boston had to come from behind to tie the score is tribute enough to the Blues' courage. Winning might have made them feel the West had some chance of going places. How pat, how perfect it was that Bobby Orr scored the winning goal after 40 seconds of overtime. It's his puck now, and heaven help the underdog.

Issue date: May 18, 1970

Montreal over Chicago in seven games
Conn Smythe winner: Ken Dryden, Montreal

By Mark Mulvoy

The red-eyed little customs officer was singing Les Canadiens Sont Là as the red-eyed Montreal Canadiens, who happened to be yelling the same tune, lined up for inspection shortly before four o'clock last Wednesday morning at Dorval Airport outside Montreal. "Monsieur, what do you have to declare?" the officer asked one of the Canadiens.

"Only the Stanley Cup, monsieur," the man answered. The customs officer had to think for a moment. "There is no problem," he said smiling. "We'll just classify that as Canadian Goods Returned."

The classification could hardly have been more apt, for the cup seems to be Canadiens' goods, if not Canada's. But the route home was a long one this time, as proud and spirited Montreal had to rally furiously from two goals down to defeat the Chicago Black Hawks 3-2 in the seventh game of the finals at Chicago Stadium, thereby ending the longest season in pro sports -- 221 days. "Nobody gave us a chance against Boston," said Jean Beliveau, the magnificent captain of the Canadiens who is considering announcing his retirement. "And nobody gave us a chance against Chicago. But when you play for the Canadiens, for the Montreal Canadiens, you know you always have a chance." ...

The Canadiens won the final game on two goals by Henri Richard, the famed Rocket Richard's silver-haired little brother. In addition to these spectacular shots, Henri got off another one, which was verbal. It came after the Canadiens lost the fifth game in Chicago and brought into the open the serious rift between Montreal Coach Al MacNiel and his players. Unfortunately, it also added to the civil unrest in the French-speaking populace of Quebec.

Richard called MacNiel "incompetent" and said he was "the worst coach I've ever played for." ...

L'Affaire Richard aside, the Canadiens really won the cup because of the play of two rookies -- Goalie Ken Dryden and Forward Rejean Houle, or Hooley, as Bobby Hull's shadow was known in Chicago. "If it weren't for that Dryden," said Boston's Phil Esposito before the seventh game of the Montreal-Chicago series, "the Canadiens would have been on vacation five weeks ago."

Dryden entered the playoffs as the veteran of only six NHL games -- all victories. Just up from the minors, he carried the Canadiens past the Bruins in the first round, played superbly against Minnesota in the second and then by thwarting the Black Hawks won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable of all the cup players. Ironically, according to the rules, Dryden still can win the Rookie of the Year award next season ...

While Dryden continually repulsed the Chicago shooters, Houle harassed Bobby Hull so effectively that throughout the seven-game series Hull scored only one goal while the teams were playing at equal strength ...

So Beliveau is a winner again, and the Stanley Cup, after staying in Boston for a year, is back in Montreal. "The Stanley Cup," said Beliveau, "always should be in Montreal."

Issue date: May 31, 1971


[Ed. Note: Excerpts follow from SI's coverage of the first-round Montreal-Boston playoff series, which the Bruins entered into as "runaway conquerors of the East," but lost in an upsetting performance amazingly authored by a rookie goaltender.]

By Mark Mulvoy

Midway through the third period of last Sunday's showdown between Montreal and Boston, the old seigneurs and brash young lords of hockey, Ken Dryden stretched all 42 inches of his left arm across the mouth of the Canadien net and speared a couldn't-miss shot by Phil Esposito, Public Enemy No. 1 to goaltenders, having scored the criminal total of 76 goals during the season, stared at Dryden, cursed him -- "You thieving giraffe!" -- and then slammed his curved stick against the glass behind the goal. "I looked at the faces of the Bruins," Dryden said later, "and I could see it all so clearly. They all looked defeated."

The Bruins were defeated, and it was Dryden, with help from the Mahavolich brothers, Peter and Frank, and some of that inexhaustible Montreal pride that upset them 4-2 in the Boston Garden in the seventh game of their wild and wicked Stanley Cup series ...

"Dryden was better than we had ever dreamed," said Bobby Orr, who through the seven games performed more erratically than his Boston worshipers had ever dreamed he could.

It was the first time all year that the Bruins, runaway conquerors of the East, really had to win a game, and when they failed, Montreal's John Ferguson crowed, "That's one dynasty that didn't last very long." ...

"Stop Orr," said John Ferguson of the Canadiens, "and you do stop the Bruins. It's that simple."

Issue date: April 26, 1971

Boston over New York in six games
Conn Smythe winner: Bobby Orr, Boston

By Mark Mulvoy

 1972 cover
And so Bobby Orr ended up with the puck and the Stanley Cup. There were only six seconds left to play in Game 6 when Ken Hodge dutifully slid the disk back to Orr at his blue line. Bobby turned around to look at the clock at the end of the rink, and he began to smile. Then he reached down and picked up the puck. "The guy always had it," said Vic Hadfield, captain of the defeated New York Rangers, "and when he had it there wasn't a thing we could do about it."

Which is one way of saying that Orr on 1 1/2 legs was better than any other player on two last Thursday night in Madison Square Garden as Boston won its second Stanley Cup in three years by shutting out the desperate Rangers 3-0. "The way I saw it," said Derek Sanderson, the hairy analyst-in-residence of the Bruins, "Bobby controlled the puck for 40 minutes and was nice enough to let the other 35 players in the game use it for the other 20. He's not a selfish kid, you know."

Maybe not, but one aspect of Orr's genius is not to let the spotlight stray from him at the big moments. Here he was, hockey's best player, Bobby Bad Knee, soon to enter the hospital for another operation, personally settling the bloody war between the sport's top teams -- just as he had in the final Stanley Cup game against St. Louis two years ago. That time he scored in overtime; this time he simply got hold of the game early and never let go ...

For a time last week, though, it appeared that the Bruins might be en route to a replay of their ignominious collapse against Montreal, when all their scoring records failed to impress a rookie goaltender, Ken Dryden.

The Bruins led the series three games to one. Champagne was on ice, a private room across the street from the Boston Garden at the Branding Iron restaurant awaited the victory festivities. The television cameras and the radio wires were installed in the dressing room. The cup was polished and on hand ...

They should not have bothered. The Bruins led 2-1 after two periods, but then their mind's-eye corks abruptly stopped popping as Bobby Rousseau, an old enemy via Montreal, scored two goals and led the Rangers to a 3-2 victory. "We had our holiday before we earned it," said Johnny McKenzie of the Bruins. "We were awful." ...

As the teams returned to New York, Sanderson summarized the Boston situation. "This is an ego trip for us now. If we don't win this one, we'll be what the Dallas Cowboys were for years. We've got to stick it to them in their building. We don't want to be known as the choke champions." ...

Thanks principally to Orr, the Bruins avoided any such sobriquet. They played what Bobby called a "perfect game" in the other team's building for the decisive shutout. "We were on top of them for 60 minutes," he said. "They had no place to go."

Issue date: May 22, 1972

Montreal over Chicago in six games
Conn Smythe winner: Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal

By Mark Mulvoy

 1973 cover
When it was finally over -- after Peter Mahavolich had lost a few dozen face-offs to Stan Mikita, after Valeri Kharlamov watched Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito masquerade as a couple of scared rookie goaltenders from Minsk, after captain Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens had skated around Chicago Stadium carrying the Stanley Cup over his shoulder like a gunnysack -- it was impossible to forget the reports of the verbal exchange between Yvan Cournoyer and Jerry Korab just seconds before Cournoyer scored the goal that beat the Black Hawks and won the cup for the Canadiens. As they lined up alongside one another for a face-off early in the third period last Thursday night, the 6' 3", 205-pound Korab, who answers to the name King Kong, loomed over the 5' 7", 172-pound Cournoyer.

"Hey you little frog," Korab snarled, "what are you going to be when you grow up?"

"Something you'll never be," Cournoyer answered. "A goal scorer."

While Korab was thinking that over, Jacques Lemaire stole the puck from him and broke in with Cournoyer ...

Cournoyer eluded Korab without any great difficulty and there he was backhanding Lemaire's rebound past Esposito for the decisive score, his record-setting 15th goal of the playoffs. Next, before the bewildered Black Hawks could recover, Cournoyer neatly set up Marc Tardif for an insurance goal as the Canadiens won the game 6-4 and clinched the cup four games to two. Then the silver-haired, 37-year-old Richard, playing for his 11th cup champion in 18 years, proudly led his mates to a night-long group therapy session with his old friend Piper-Heidsieck.

They said it ...

"All those years," Richard said, "all I ever wanted to do was skate around the ice with the cup. I watched Butch Bouchard skate with it, I watched Maurice, my brother, and I watched Jean Beliveau, too. They told me it was the greatest feeling in the world. Now I know what they meant. But I always thought the cup was very heavy. When I picked it up I couldn't believe it. The thing is lighter than a feather."

Issue date: May 21, 1973

Philadelphia over Boston in six games
Conn Smythe winner: Bernie Parent, Philadelphia

By Mark Mulvoy

Even old W.C. Fields himself might have loved being in Philadelphia last Sunday afternoon. It was a day when that much-abused city finally laughed at the world, a day when Bobby Clarke, the gap-toothed diabetic rink rat with the guts of 10 dozen burglars, and Bernie Parent, the nimble goaltender, skated around the frenzied streamer-filled Spectrum holding the Stanley Cup aloft for Kate Smith and the whole world to see. Sorry, Boston. Pity, New York. Adieu, Montreal. Sayonara, Chicago.

There were no Philadelphia Flyers seven years ago, but now they own the hockey world after Parent's spectacular goaltending and Clarke's tenacious forechecking and mastery of the face-offs destroyed Bobby Orr and the Bruins in the decisive sixth game. With their 1-0 cliffhanger victory, the Flyers joined the few expansion teams ever to whip the haughty Establishment and win a championship ...

That slender lead [ Rick MacLeish 's power-play goal scored at 14:48 of the first period] was good enough for Parent, even though the Bruins repeatedly stormed his cage the rest of the game in attempt to avoid not only the end of the cup road but their first shutout of the year. Parent plainly robbed Orr twice and Phil Esposito, and then made his best save in the third period when Carol Vadnais flipped a backhander from in close only to have Parent detour the puck with his glove hand ... At 5:02 p.m. Parent gloved a long Orr shot -- and the game was over. Suddenly the NHL had parity and Philadelphia had a Stanley Cup ...

Parent's playoff-long magnificance aside, Clarke and Orr were the pivotal figures throughout the punishing series ...

Clarke helped the Stop Orr! campaign in two distinct ways. He chased Orr behind the net at times and pinned him to the boards, thus forcing face-offs near the Boston goaltender, and he kept his stick attached to Orr's navel whenever Bobby managed to elude the Flyer forecheckers and gain a half step on them in the race up the ice. More important, Clarke completely nulified Esposito by hawking him relentlessly, hitting him into the boards and embarrassing him almost to the point of ridicule by winning 48 of their 66 face-offs in the first three games ...

The Flyers packed champagne for their trip to Boston last Thursday night, but Orr kept the corks on with his best skating exhibition of the entire season. Taking personal command of a game that featured spearing, kneeing, butt-ending, a record 43 penalties, six fights and that latest weapon in Dave Schultz' fighting arsenal, the Bruno Sammartino head butt, Orr defeated the Flyers by setting up Boston's first goal after a brilliant shorthanded rush and scoring the next two himself as the Bruins won 5-1. "For the first time, we gave Orr too much room," Flyers coach Fred Shero lammented. Orr's aching knees, unfortunately limit the times when he can play like the youth who revolutionized the sport in the late 1960s. "You can have all the Bobby Clarkes in the world," said Harry Sinden, the managing director of the Bruins. "I'll take one game like that from Orr. He made 30 moves no one has ever seen before."

But on Sunday afternoon Parent stopped all of Orr's maneuvers, and when it was over, as the Flyers poured the bubbly and the Bruins consoled themselves with Michelob, Orr saluted his conquerors. "The Bruins," he said glumly, "are only No. 2."

Issue date: May 27, 1974


[Ed. Note: Excerpts follow from SI's coverage of the Rangers-Flyers Stanley Cup semifinal -- where Dave Schultz lived up to his nickname and Bobby Clarke played up Philadelphia's "Broad Street Bullies" theme.]

By Mark Mulvoy
 1974 cover

In one corner Philadelphia had heavyweight king Dave (Hammer) Schultz , top contenders Bob (Hound) Kelly and Andre (Moose) Dumont and the 17 other toughs who helped the Flyers lead the NHL in knockdowns, knockouts and -- not coincidentally -- penalty minutes over the regular season. In the other corner New York had two fair heavyweights in Ron Harris and Ted Irvine, an overblown middleweight in Brad Park and 17 assorted paperweights ...

Strangely, the quietest Flyer [in Game 2] -- played in Philadelphia -- was Schultz, who by now has become a North American byword for hockey roughhousing. He had set an NHL record by spending 348 minutes in penalty boxes during the season ...

Although Flyers coach Fred Shero tends to regard Schultz' 20 fighting penalties this season as the only true measure of the Hammer's worth, the inescapable fact is that Schultz also scored 20 goals, while becoming the most accomplished enforcer since the days when John Ferguson was bruising bodies for the Montreal Canadiens. "Hockey is a contact sport for men," Schultz says. "It's not an ice ballet or the Ice Follies. I'd be lost on a finesse team like New York ...

"I never want to hurt anybody in a fight. Oh, I like to beat them up and leave them with some bruises and some bumps, but I don't want to hurt them."

They said it ...

"You don't have to be a genius to figure out what we do on the ice. We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor. But, tell me, if we're so bad, why haven't they locked us up?"
-- Bobby Clarke

Issue date: May 6, 1974

Philadelphia over Buffalo in six games
Conn Smythe winner: Bernie Parent, Philadelphia

By Mark Mulvoy

It's all over, the 1974-75 hockey season. Finis! After 254 days and 97 games, the Philadelphia Flyers concluded the longest season in pro sports history last week by winning their second straight NHL championship. They beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 behind Bernie Parent's impeccable goaltending in the clamactic sixth game in steamy Buffalo ...

After the Flyers had short-circuited Buffalo's French Connection, after they had guzzled the bubbly from the Stanley Cup and after they had been cheered by 2.3 million delerious Philadelphians on their triumphant parade through the city, it was impossible to forget a message that Coach Freddie (The Fog) Shero had once written on their dressing-room blackboard:

Fame is a vapor
Popularity an accident
Riches take wings
Only one thing endures
and that is character.

No one can deny that the Flyers have character. Lots of it. Take that downright honest character, add a generous portion of Parent's wizard goaltending, plus a good measure of Captain Bobby Clarke's fanatical desire, have it rise to special occasions with Rick MacLeish's inspired play, season with a few sprigs of Kate Smith's golden tones, pour it all into Shero's disciplined system -- and you have your basic Stanley Cup champion.

Last season the Flyers were called the Broad Street Bullies from the City of Brotherly Mug because of the coarse manner in which they played hockey, sort of a like a band of escapees from A Clockwork Orange set loose on the ice with machetes attached to their sticks and brass knuckles concealed under their gloves ...

This spring, though, the Flyers suffered and survived a surprising metamorphosis ... Unbelieveably, the Flyers were involved in only two fights -- one loss and one draw -- during the six games against Buffalo ...

The Flyers limited Buffalo's alleged power play to just three goals in 32 attempts; held the French Connection line of Center Gilbert Perreault and Wings Richard Martin and Rene Robert -- which had scored a total of 18 goals in 11 previous playoff games against Chicago and Montreal -- to a paltry four goals in the finals; and thoroughly neutralized the normally elusive Perreault with their adroit checking maneuvers ...

Terry Crisp was one of the five Philadelphia centers who shared the assignment of harassing Perreault ... "They used to call us goons because we weren't very fancy, but now they have no excuses -- none -- because there was no gooning in these playoffs. Or put it this way: the point we proved is that a working man's hockey team can win."

Issue date: June 9, 1975


[Ed. Note: Excerpts follow from SI's coverage of 1975 finals games that might not have been played but for a "revolutionary" form of fog removal.]

By Mark Mulvoy

"I wouldn't take my boat out in these conditions," said Philadelphia Goaltender Bernie Parent last week after the stifling heat and oppressive humidity in Buffalo -- a city which has not yet discovered air conditioning -- forced the Flyers and the Sabres to play two Stanley Cup games in a fog that would have kept America's Cup yachts in port ...

When the fog returned during Thursday's game, which Buffalo won 4-2 to tie the championship series at two games apiece, the Sabre management unveiled a revolutionary new system for fog control; they had five teams of arena attendants, each armed with a bedsheet, skate around the ice and wave off the fog voodoo-style. "When are the Martians landing?" Parent asked. Back in their air-conditioned Spectrum Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia celebrated the unlimited visibility with a 5-1 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

Issue date: June 2, 1975

Montreal over Philadelphia in four games
Conn Smythe winner: Reggie Leach, Philadelphia

By J.D. Reed

 1976 cover
A kid in an orange-and-white Flyers T shirt jogged past a solitary figure leaning against a wall outside the Philadelphia dressing room at the Spectrum one night last week. "You'd better get working," the kid said to the man. "Ah, soon, I sure don't know why, but I'm just doing no good in these playoffs," said Father John Casey, Philadelphia's team priest.

Last Sunday night, with Father Casey, Kate Smith and 17,077 Flyer fanatics looking on, the lordly Montreal Canadiens administered the last rites to the two-year Stanley Cup reign of the brash Flyers, beating them 5-3 to complete a stunning four-game sweep of the cup. "Somewhere down the line people will see that we won in four straight games -- and that it was easy," said Montreal Goaltender Ken Dryden. "But they will not be more wrong. If you'll notice, we're drinking our champagne sitting down." ...

Despite the closeness of the scores, the swift-skating Canadiens shocked the former Broad St. Bullies by beating them at their own game of intimidation ...

What hurt Philadelphia most of all, however, was Montreal coach Scotty Bowman's masterful strategy for containing Bobby Clarke, the usually indomitable captain of the Flyers. Clarke had 30 goals and 89 assists this year while centering for Reggie Leach (61 goals) and Bill Barber (50 goals) on the most productive line in NHL history. "You never really stop someone like Clarke because he can beat you so many ways," Bowman said. "We just set out to wear him down. And by controlling Clarke, we naturally figured that we would be able to keep his linemates in pretty good check." ...

As Bowman correctly figured, by controlling Clarke's movements the Canadiens also effectively slowed down the production of Leach and Barber. Leach scored four goals against Dryden, but Barber was thoroughly contained by old hand Jimmy Roberts and, like Clarke, did not score a goal. "Leach can score while you blink," said Bob Gainey, the NHL's best defensive wing. "He's hard to cover because once he touches the puck he shoots it on the net."

Discussing Gainey, Roberts and friends, Philadelphia Wing Gary Dornhoefer said, "They've checked us so closely that you can tell what brand of deodorant they're using." Or as Defenseman Joe Watson said, "All those Montreal guys are so big, so tall, that when they reach out to check you with their sticks, it looks as though they can reach all the way across the rink." Said another disgusted Flyer, "I'd like to take one stride, just one stride, without some Canadien fighting me for the puck. Why, we haven't had enough shots at Dryden to make him work up a sweat."

Issue date: May 24, 1976

Montreal over Boston in four games
Conn Smythe winner: Guy Lafleur, Montreal

By Peter Gammons

 1977 cover
Name your game, baby, and the Montreal Canadiens will beat you. If you want to play hockey on the pond, the Canadiens will outskate you. If you want to play it on the docks, the Canadiens will outslug you. And if all you want to do is sit at home and play Blue Line Hockey, General Manager Sam Pollock and Coach Scotty Bowman will show up in your living room with loaded dice. "Any way the other team wants to play the game, we can play that way, too," says Montreal Defenseman Serge Savard.

The Boston Bruins certainly learned this the hard way last week during the Stanley Cup finals. Outskated 7-3 in Game One, the Bruins were outslugged 3-0 in Game Two Tuesday night at the Forum. Vowing revenge for the manhandlings suffered by his teammates, Bruin roughneck John Wensink predicted before Game Three that Montreal star " Guy Lafleur won't get out of Boston Garden alive." Blithely skating away from Boston checkers, particularly the overmatched Wensink, Lafleur not only escaped with his life Thursday night, but he also scored two goals and neatly set up the other two in Montreal's 4-2 victory. "Guy really played scared, eh?" said linemate Steve Shutt.

Trailing the series three games to none, the Bruins were reeling now, and Lafleur personally provided the coup de grâce Saturday night in Boston. Early in the second period Lafleur fed linemate Jacques Lemaire for the goal that tied the score at one, and it remained that way through the end of the regulation 60 minutes as both teams forgot about brawling and played excellent hockey.

But Lafleur has plans for a holiday on the French Riviera, and once the sudden death began it was obvious that he did not want to delay the start of his vacation. The Canadiens pinned the Bruins deep in their own end, and suddenly there was Lafleur skating down a wobbling puck along the end boards behind Boston Goaltender Gerry Cheevers.

In less time than it takes a Frenchman to say Les Canadiens Sont Lá, Lafleur spotted the ubiquitous Lemaire alone at the corner of the goal crease, flattened the rolling puck by covering it with the blade of his stick, then adroitly slid it to the uncovered Lemaire. Flick! The puck was past Cheevers and into the net, and the Canadiens had a four-game sweep of the cup finals. Pass the champagne, s'il vous plaît.

"Any excuses we could come up with would be bull," said Boston Captain Wayne Cashman. "It all came down to one thing. The Canadiens are so bleeping good!"

They said it ...

"Someone said this was going to be a series of Rolls-Royces against Jeeps," said Boston Coach Don Cherry [after Game Two], "but twice now we've been beaten by their Jeeps." ...

"We're a unique blend of superstars and workers," Montreal coach Scotty Bowman says. "If you took the 18 most talented players in the NHL and put them on the same team, they could not accomplish what we accomplished as a team this year." ...

"I don't know how to describe this guy except to say he reminds me of a guy we used to have -- Bobby Orr," said Cashman of Lafleur. "He's the class of hockey, the best player in the world, and with guys like him -- like Bobby -- when things are tough, they just take it in stride and turn it on. He showed all of us what he's made of. I'm disappointed he was able to do it against us, but I think of all the teams that tried to stop Bobby when the pressure was high, and I've got to say to myself, 'What the hell, the guy's the greatest there is, so what are we supposed to do about it?'"

Issue date: May 23, 1977

Montreal over Boston in six games
Conn Smythe winner: Larry Robinson, Montreal

By Mark Mulvoy

 1978 cover
Fifty yards down the corridor from Boston Coach Don Cherry's office, the Montreal Canadiens are celebrating the 4-1 victory over the Bruins that wrapped up their third straight Stanley Cup championship, their ninth in the last 14 years and their 21st in all. This is how they are celebrating in their Boston Garden locker room:

Pierre Larouche, a newcomer to the Canadiens -- and to winning -- is alternately guzzling champagne and squirting it at his teammates, most of whom are sipping beer from cans.

Larry Robinson, the imperial defenseman who almost singlehandedly ruined Boston last week as Montreal broke open the series by winning the last two games by the same convincing score, is trying to convey the sadness he feels for the vanquished Bruins. "Now," he says, "They will have to spend their summer vacations answering the most depressing question of all: 'Why didn't you win?'"

Guy Lafleur, the dynamic goal scorer, is telling linemate Steve Shutt to hurry and get dressed, that the real party will begin when the Canadiens' charter lands in Montreal.

Mario Tremblay, the 22-year-old right wing who did not even dress for 10 of Montreal's 15 playoff games, but who had scored two goals -- including the Cup winner -- in Thursday night's sixth game, is speaking in French to some journalist friends. He is telling them that he hopes his two-goal performance will convince General Manager Sam Pollock not to ship one Mario Tremblay off to Colorado or Cleveland or -- no, Sam! -- St. Louis when Pollock conducts his annual fire sale of slightly used hockey merchandise.

Scotty Bowman, the coach who has led the Canadiens to four Stanley Cups in his seven seasons in Montreal, is strangely subdued. For once, he has nothing to say about the officiating. He is even quiet about Boston Defenseman Brad Park , whom he had singled out as being a sneaky, dirty player. Bowman, whose contract with the Canadiens has lapsed, asks a friend, "If the Canadiens don't give me the new contract I want, where should I live in the States?" Bowman says he is weary of coaching, and, indeed, within the next few weeks could well become the general manager of the New York Rangers, the Colorado Rockies or the St. Louis Blues ...

In his office down the hall, Cherry, the beaten coach for the second straight year, is winding down from his eight-month high. "You know what really bothers the hell out of me about the damned Canadiens?" he says. "It's that they are really a bunch of good guys. I couldn't even work up a good hate against them if I tried for a month. It's easy to work up a hate for a club like Philadelphia. And I suppose -- well, I know that it's pretty easy for teams to work up a good hate against the Bruins. But hating the Canadiens is like hating your mother."

Cherry shakes his head. "It's a funny thing, or maybe right now it's not such a funny thing," he says, "but three of my best friends in hockey are those three big Canadien defensemen -- Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe ." ...

Maybe not, but with friends like Robinson, Savard and Lapointe, Cherry hardly needs enemies. After the Bruins had squared the series at two games apiece by winning Games 3 and 4 in Boston, Robinson, Savard and Lapointe -- no doubt the three best defenders ever to play on the same team -- shut off the Boston attack with their slick stick checks and bruising body checks, and then awakened the slumbering Montreal offense with their strong rushes and their long passes to breaking forwards ...

The Robinsons, Savards, Lafleurs and Ken Drydens aside, what distinguishes the Canadiens from the pretenders in the NHL is their exceptional depth. Or quality in numbers, as Bowman calls it, thinking about the Pierre Mondous, Larouches and Tremblays, who would be stars in other cities -- Larouche, in fact, once was the star of the Pittsburgh Penguins -- but are not considered mature enough to play regularly in Montreal.

Issue date: June 5, 1978

Montreal over New York in five games
Conn Smythe winner: Bob Gainey, Montreal

By E.M. Swift

It seems absurd that the Montreal Canadiens, those seigneurs of hockey, would ever feel the need to vindicate themselves, but such was the case in the Stanley Cup finals last week. For almost two months the Montreal players had read Les Canadiens sont mort on every face in Quebec.

After all, the Canadiens had finished second to the New York Islanders -- by one point -- in the NHL's overall standings, a sure sign to skeptics that the foundation of their dynasty had decayed. Then in the Cup semifinals, the beleaguered Canadiens had barely scraped past Boston by the margin of an overtime goal in the seventh game. And when the New York Rangers had soundly trounced them 4-1 in the opener of the finals -- right there in the Forum -- well sacré bleu, the word on rue Ste-Catherine was, "Those players, they do not deserve to wear the uniform that the Rocket wore."

"People think of Montrealers as being such sophisticated hockey fans," says one Quebecker, "but they're the same as people everywhere else: 'What have you done for me lately?'"

Well, lately -- Monday night, in fact -- the Canadiens gave their followers another Stanley Cup as they beat the New York Rangers for the fourth straight time to take the series four games to one. It was Les Canadiens' fourth consecutive Cup, their eighth in 12 seasons and their 22nd in history -- but the first Cup won at the Forum since 1968, when their captain, Serge Savard, was a rookie.

And now, as the Forum reverberated with the traditional victory song -- Les Canadiens Sont Là -- it was Savard who was hoisting the Cup and skating around in triumph. All was forgiven.

Issue date: May 28, 1979

Cover photographs by: Neil Leifer (1970, 71), Tony Triolo (1972, 74), Manny Millan (1976, 78), John G. Zimmerman (1977)