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THE BATTLE OF THE BIG TOWNS
Pete Axthelm
April 22, 1968
As Stanley Cup hockey heated up, the best war was between New York's Rangers, who had a plan, and the Second City's Black Hawks, who behaved like doves for a time but then got pretty mean
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April 22, 1968

The Battle Of The Big Towns

As Stanley Cup hockey heated up, the best war was between New York's Rangers, who had a plan, and the Second City's Black Hawks, who behaved like doves for a time but then got pretty mean

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"I'm just doing a job," said Stewart. "Some guys are paid to score. I'm paid to check. And when contract time comes around, don't worry, my efforts will be appreciated."

With Hull frustrated, the Rangers won the first game 3-1 and held on to win the second 2-1, although the Hawks outplayed them for the last two periods as Reay kept experimenting to try to get his club going. "But we're starting to skate now," warned Hull. "And in the long run it won't be any strategy that wins this series. It will be a matter of who is willing to punish himself more to get it."

Bobby, who had rested for six days at the end of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs, was ready to punish himself to the utmost, but there was some doubt about other Hawks. The team had suffered through a season of injuries, disappointments and slumps; at times the Hawks looked as if they just wanted to get the whole thing over with.

Then something happened to Chicago. "We're pros," Mikita said succinctly. "We have a lot at stake, and we have a lot to prove. We just had to start playing the way we can."

Suddenly Mikita, Wharram and Mohns were swarming all over their slower rivals. Goalie Denis DeJordy was as brilliant as his New York counterpart, Eddie Giacomin. Defenseman Gilles Marotte, who had been a major disappointment for much of the season, played two superb games in a row. The Hawks exploded for five goals in the third period of the third game, then poured 23 shots at Giacomin in the first period of the Saturday game. Everyone—right down to the Bob Schmautzes and Brian McDonalds that Reay kept finding on his bench—played a part. When Schmautz scored the deciding goal in the 2-1 fifth game, Marotte watched the reporters drift from Hull, who scored the other Hawk goal, toward the rookie. "Who's the star?" he called. "Bobby Who?" Hull showed in that game, when the Rangers held and fouled him all night, that he was still the dominant star. But the Hawks also had won two crucial games without any goals by the man who had started out to carry them.

"It doesn't bother me a bit," said Bobby Hull. "I don't care if I don't even get a shot on goal, as long as we keep winning."

Bobby didn't get a shot on the net during the entire third game, a 7-4 victory. But his center, Pit Martin, took seven shots—and scored with two of them. Whenever the Ranger defensemen became too preoccupied with Hull, Martin and Chico Maki were able to rush in and challenge Giacomin. Martin, who came from Boston with Marotte in last summer's controversial trade, was bothered by an ankle injury for much of this year and scored only 16 goals. Phil Esposito, the man he replaced on Hull's line, scored 35 for the Bruins—and Pit heard quite a bit about it. "I'm glad Phil had a good year," Martin said. "That didn't bother me. But I guess it bothered a lot of other people around Chicago."

Part of Martin's trouble this season came from the fact that his style did not mesh too well with Hull's. "Bobby and Chico were used to a center like Phil, who could hang tough at the red line and hit them with passes as they broke in. My style is more suited to carrying the puck myself," explained Martin. "With Bobby covered so closely now, I have to carry it more—and that's when I'm at my best."

" Martin played the two best games I've seen him in," said Francis. "He was the key man in both of them." After his two goals in the third game, Pit won a faceoff to set up Marotte's winning goal in the fourth game, then stole the puck to feed Maki for the final goal in the 3-1 triumph. Yet Francis insisted that he was unimpressed by the skating display of Martin, Mikita and the other suddenly awakened Hawks. "We never did dazzle anyone with footwork," Emile said, "but we'll grind them down."

The team that does grind out this victory may prove an easy target for the well-rested Canadiens. But last week that prospect was lost in the excitement of the moment. After the third game Don Murphy, the Hawks' publicity man and most rabid fan, raced into the dressing room. "Two goals, Pit!" he yelled. "That's more than Esposito got in the whole series last year."

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