Bobby, playing like a veteran at 19, seems to improve all the time. "You watch him every night," said one Boston observer recently, "and you keep saying, 'There's the best play he's ever made.' Then you look again and he's doing something even better." Orr's reflexes and anticipation allow him to block many opponents' shots before they ever reach the goal. It is not unusual to see him block a hard shot with his legs, knock down the shooter and skate forward with the puck. Offensively he still has the heavy, accurate shot that excited the fans last year, and now he can set up more plays because he has more scorers playing with him.
Orr has matured rapidly off the ice, as well. He arrived in Boston calling the players "Mister" and "Sir." Now he talks and jokes with them and more and more is becoming their leader.
"You could see the difference in this team as soon as training camp started," Bobby said last week. "After one practice a few of us went out for a beer, and the whole team ended up in the same place. It's been that way all year. We go to the same places, we hang together as a group." Orr lives in an apartment with Defenseman Gary Doak and Assistant Trainer Frosty Forristall. Although he is two years too young to be legally admitted into some of Boston's more active singles' hangouts, he enjoys as much social life as you would expect a rugged-looking, good-natured, rich, famous, eligible, star athlete to enjoy.
But much of Bobby's fun comes just from being part of the team. "You can see that we're not very serious," he said after one recent workout, gesturing around the dressing room. Stanfield was tanning his face with a sunlamp, Esposito was berating Williams for his "American" long hair; others were laughing at a sign Cheevers had posted over Doak's locker, proclaiming him "second star" of the previous night's game—although Gary had played all of three minutes. Esposito interrupted his talk with Williams to give a short speech. "What a forechecker! What a shooter! What an all-round star!"
"You talking about Bobby Hull?" he was asked.
"I'm talking about myself."
"See what I mean?" said Orr. "Nobody's very serious." To some Bruins, this kind of thing is a little new; to Esposito. who always expected to win when he was centering for Hull in Chicago, it is not. And that is why Phil means far more to the team than the goals he scores. He knows about pride and the kind of relaxed spirit that comes from winning. "I don't think the style of this team," he said in one moment of seriousness, "is very different from last year's Black Hawks."
You may recall that the Hawks won the NHL race by 17 points last year. The Bruins will not match that. They have a few weaknesses and they depend heavily on young players, who are more prone to go into slumps than the experienced men. They have an occasional sloppy night—and have lost three of the seven games they have played with expansion clubs. But they have gotten the jump on their rivals in the tight East Division race, and they are not likely to give it up in any overall collapse. They are talking about the playoffs as if they are already in them.
Leaving the dressing room one day last week, Williams stopped to talk to Schmidt about playoff bonus money. "Now is not the time to talk money," said Milt. "I have an office for that." "Sorry," said Williams, who has been with Boston seven years.
"I couldn't help myself," he said later. "I'm so excited. You know, I've never been so close to anything like this before."