Serene as Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning, Boston awaited the Montreal Canadiens. A heavy wind riffled the Charles and picked at the corners of countless bumper stickers that proclaimed, "God Bless ORR Country." Teen-agers gave a last satisfied spin to the town's favorite rock record:
Born to be the nation's craze;
Wondrous Bobby, wondrous ways.
And, indeed, it was a treat to count the ways as Orr began to victimize the Canadiens. He tires a mighty shot from the blue line and yes! the red light is on. The game not four minutes old and hockey's greatest player is hurling thunderbolts. Boston's quest of a second consecutive Stanley Cup is well begun. Dreams of dynasty to rival Montreal's own are surely coming true.
Poor Montreal: Beaten by Boston in five of six regular-season games, twice slaughtered in the last week. Feeding a rookie goalie to the hungry Bruins: Ken Dryden, lately of the Cornell nets, veteran of but six NHL games. A law student even now! Plenty to feast on there, for Dryden goes 6'4", 210 pounds. Ken is "a little nervous." Who could blame him? On his side are a most un-Canadienlike mixture of old warriors and fuzzy-cheeked kids. Against him are arrayed not only Orr—the one-man array—but gunners like Phil Esposito, highest scorer the league has ever known.
So Orr began the feast and kept the courses coming. They speak of his "control" of a game. He controlled this one. At one point, with Boston a man short, he played keepaway with the puck for what must have been 30 seconds. Once, coming out of the Boston end, he skated directly at two forecheckers and parted them as sweetly and magically as Moses parted the Red Sea, the puck clinging to his stick all the while.
Under Orr's generalship the Bruins led 3-1 halfway through the third period, and though Dryden was proving to be a gristly mouthful—his fast hands, stick and skates diverted many a good Bruin shot—Boston kept the pressure on. At the Bruin end, Goalie Gerry Cheevers was magnificent.
Then came a moment of shock for the Boston fans. Among Bobby Orr's wondrous ways, no one had counted his capacity for anger. Referee John Ashley called him for holding little Yvan Cournoyer. Up to now. Ashley's calls had ranged from the obvious to the marginal. Orr was incensed. Skating alongside the referee to the penalty box, Orr screamed at him. "You miss 14 penalties on them and then call a cheap one on me." Something else Orr said caused Ashley to hit him with a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Now thoroughly enraged, Orr, who had displayed nothing like such temper since the playoffs of 1969, charged out of the box, shoved Linesman Ron Ego and started after Ashley.
Appalled, the crowd understood at once that should he reach Ashley and so much as touch a linger to his striped shirt, their beloved Bobby might be thrown out of this game and conceivably out of the rest of the playoffs. Fortunately for Orr, six Bruins intercepted him, and there was the astonishing sight of his teammate Rick Smith literally punching him back toward the boards with blows to the chest.
Boston breathed again. Bobby later was profoundly apologetic; Ashley, who should now be called St. John in Beantown, later told newsmen that he did not see Orr leave the box—a serious matter—or touch Ego—a more serious one. Said one Canadien, "If it had been John Ferguson, he'd have been suspended for a few games."
Maybe so, maybe not, but for the first time Bostonians had a sense of unease.