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Austin Murphy
May 02, 1988
After a quiet regular season, Wayne Gretzky had Edmonton flying in the Stanley Cup playoffs
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May 02, 1988

Here's That Man Again

After a quiet regular season, Wayne Gretzky had Edmonton flying in the Stanley Cup playoffs

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Boston got a rude reception on April 18, the night the Adams Division finals began, when an ice storm damaged a transmission line in northern Quebec, plunging most of the province into darkness. Emergency generators helped light the Montreal Forum, enabling Game 1 between the Canadiens and Bruins to continue uninterrupted. "It was a good thing the game was blacked out [on TV], because we stunk out the joint," said Bruins center Bob Sweeney.

Early the next morning the power came back, as did the Bruins a day after that. Replacing Andy Moog, the loser in Game 1, goalie Rejean Lemelin stole Game 2 for the Bruins. Boston got off just 14 shots on goal but still won 4-3. "My glove was hot tonight," said Lemelin, 33, the Calgary reject whom the Bruins signed as a free agent last summer. In the first 10 minutes, Lemelin made three highlight-film saves on 50-goal scorer Stephane Richer. On Richer's fourth breakaway the Forum crowd figured surely he would solve Lemelin this time. But Boston defenseman Michael Thelven took a two-handed chop that fractured Richer's right thumb and put him out for the series.

Vicious and premeditated, screamed the Habs.

"Vicious?" asked Thelven, a hardnosed, but hardly dirty, Swede. "Translation, please?"

"They should call them the Boston Villains," said Montreal coach Jean Perron, accusing the Bruins, who crashed Montreal defensemen Chris Chelios and Petr Svoboda into the boards all night, of using "goon tactics."

"He said that?" asked Boston's Ken (the Rat) Linseman. "What a bleeping hypocrite!"

Perron's coaching acumen notwithstanding, the Rat was right. Anybody who issues a uniform to the likes of John Kordic—who has zero hockey talent but a strong repertoire of jabs and uppercuts—leaves himself very little room for sanctimony.

Montreal sought retribution in Game 3 at Boston Garden. But while the Habs took runs at them, the Bruins took the game. Defenseman Ray Bourque was everywhere, throwing himself in front of shots and checking—cleanly—every Canadien in sight. Montreal was muffled as Lemelin was airtight again. The fact is, without Richer the Canadiens were just a bunch of grinders. The Bruins, on the other hand, were grinders with a mission, winning 3-1.

"They're playing like they think it's their year," said Perron, worriedly, before Game 4. His concern was well-founded. After 31 minutes of scoreless, breathless hockey, with Habs netminder Patrick Roy matching Lemelin save for save, Boston scored the only goal it would need. Bourque split Montreal's defense with a splendid breakout pass to Lyndon Byers, who found Middleton open on his left wing. Middleton, a former 51-goal scorer recently reduced to a bit part because of the presence of rookies Sweeney, Craig Janney and Bob Joyce, found his old touch, backhanding the puck over Roy's right leg pad for a 1-0 Bruins lead. Lemelin needed nothing more for Boston to win 2-0.

Lemelin has been the best goaltender in the playoffs—less spectacular than New Jersey prodigy Sean Burke, perhaps, but more consistent. The Devils, who flat out bullied the New York Islanders into submission in the first round, were themselves dominated by the Capitals in Game 1 of the Patrick Division finals. The Caps were sure they had arrived.

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