The knock-the-chip-off-my-shoulder, double-dare-you grin is back, the massive ego leavened with an impishness that makes Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche the winningest playoff goalie of his generation in both personality and numbers. Roy needs to swagger, at least in that understated hockey player sort of way, but for a while after he was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster deal on Dec. 6, he kept any cockiness under wraps. On his worst nights, playing behind a gifted yet sometimes distracted Avalanche team, he seemed to have misplaced his swagger along with his reflexes. Now with the Stanley Cup in sight—Colorado had a 3-2 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference finals after the Wings' 5-2 home victor)' on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena—Roy is again delightfully insufferable.
You could see it coming. After shutting out the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the first round, Roy mentioned to a television interviewer that his father had given him some tips to help solve a recent problem he has had with concentration. "What tips?" the interviewer asked.
"Can you keep a secret?" Roy said.
"Yes," the man replied with Connie Chung disingenuousness.
"Well," Roy said, "so can I."
Good Roy, but not classic Roy. Even if you're a two-time playoff MVP, that caliber of smart-aleck repartee doesn't get you the chair next to Letterman. Roy broke out some of his best material in the second round when he engaged Chicago Black-hawks center Jeremy Roenick in a verbal battle. Roy scored a quick TKO when he said he couldn't hear Roenick's quips because he had his two Stanley Cup rings plugging his ears.
Roy also showed his old self after Detroit's 6-4 thrashing of Colorado in Game 3, in which he couldn't have caught a cold in net. The nightmare began when Red Wings forward Darren McCarty scored on a blind wraparound that inexplicably slithered between Roy's pads, ending his shutout streak at 101:20. After Colorado had closed the gap to 5-4 at the end of the second period by scoring twice in seven seconds, Roy made an even more egregious blunder on defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom's 62-foot blast early in the third. That shot was launched from behind the blue line, the hockey equivalent of an NBA half-court heave. The puck dipped on Roy, but when any object has to travel that far, gravity is sure to have an effect. The sorry evening could have made Roy morose, but he was amiable and chatty after practice the next afternoon. And sure enough, that night he stopped 30 shots in a 4-2 Avalanche victory that moved him into second place in career playoff wins, with 81, seven behind the New York Islanders' Billy Smith. "I knew after [Game 3] that I would have a good game today," said Roy.
"Maybe he didn't get his cockiness back until after the Vancouver series, but he's really starting to show it now," Colorado defenseman Craig Wolanin said after Game 4. "Patrick knows how to handle himself. He knows how to play this game, on and off the ice."
Certainly the Avalanche-Red Wings series offered enough sideshows to keep Roy and everyone else amused. For starters, Detroit coach Scotty Bowman provided a good measure of hockey as circus. Bowman, the maestro of minutiae, moaned about the strange caroms off the Plexiglas behind the net at Denver's McNichols Arena even though new Plexiglas and boards had been installed, at a cost of $500,000, in April. Then he bellyached that the visitors' bench was set too close to the boards, which didn't allow his players enough legroom to jump on and off the ice easily. After Game 3 Bowman even took his hectoring to the parking lot, where, from the open door of Detroit's team bus, he screamed at Colorado's pot-stirring forward Claude Lemieux, who had thrown a sneaky rabbit punch at Detroit left wing Slava Kozlov during a first-period scrum.
Lemieux was carrying his two-month-old son, Brendan, and walking with his wife, Deborah, when Bowman spewed his invective. Lemieux, whose sense of honor is as genuine as it is exaggerated, was outraged by the verbal assault in front of his family outside the designated battleground. "That was totally out of proportion," he said. "Everyone is entitled to their private life." In the chivalrous Denver press there were howls of outrage over Bowman's gauche attack—spare the women and children!