SI Vault
Mark Mulvoy
April 26, 1971
Heavily favored to destroy a rare nonvintage Montreal team and win the Stanley Cup again, Bobby Orr's Bostonians fell before the Canadien mystique and a fabulous rookie in the nets
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April 26, 1971

Brief Reign Of The Lordly Bruins

Heavily favored to destroy a rare nonvintage Montreal team and win the Stanley Cup again, Bobby Orr's Bostonians fell before the Canadien mystique and a fabulous rookie in the nets

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Between games law student Dryden visited law school libraries. "That's good," said Gerry Cheevers. "At least I'll never run into him off the ice." When he is not in the Boston goal, Cheevers usually can be found at the race track. "I start every day the same way," he says, "with the Lord's Prayer. 'Our Father, Who art in heaven, give us this day our daily double.' "

The second and third vital matchups involved centermen: Boston's swinging Derek Sanderson vs. Jean Beliveau, the magnificent captain of the Canadiens, and Montreal's Henri Richard vs. the quick stick of Phil Esposito. Sitting in the Bruins' dressing room one night, Sanderson talked about Beliveau. "I hate him. I hate him," Derek said, twitching his mustache. "What I hate about Beliveau is that he's so good. All the time I was growing up I idolized him. So now I'm playing against him and I still think he's the greatest. But the way I figure it, if we're going to win, I got to outplay Beliveau."

The great man of the Canadiens gave Derek a few hard lessons during the first three games, but Sanderson covered Beliveau so closely in the fourth game that Jean was never an important player. "That's what I've got to do again," Derek said.

Playing Richard against Esposito was a totally unexpected move by Montreal Coach Al MacNeill. Actually, in the first game MacNeill started with Peter Mahovlich, who at 6'4" and 210 pounds is bigger than Esposito, but when Phil took 11 shots at Dryden (none got past him) MacNeill switched to the Pocket Rocket. Starting with the second game, Richard skated alongside Esposito everyplace he went—even to the Boston bench. Phil, who averaged some seven shots on goal during the season, took only three shots at Dryden in the second game, six in the third and four in the fourth. "Henri is doing his job, right?" Esposito said bitterly.

And so, when the fifth game started last Tuesday in Boston, the matchups were set. In the first minute Wayne Cashman scored for Boston. Moments later Yvan Cournoyer tied the score for the Canadiens. All the while Richard was dogging Esposito and Sanderson was clinging to Beliveau. Orr, meanwhile, seemed to be playing as he did in the first game—more concerned about preventing goals than scoring them.

Then it happened. The puck was behind the Montreal goal. Richard left Esposito alone in front, figuring the puck was safely on the stick of a Montreal defenseman. But somehow the puck hopped over the net—and Dryden, too—and there was Esposito free to tap in one of the easiest goals he has ever scored. "I was owed that, thank you," he said later. Boston then started to hit every Canadien who moved, and soon the Bruins were in control. Mike Walton scored later in the first period and the Bruins rolled to a 5-1 lead in the second.

Contrary Montreal roared out for the third period and scored two fast goals. Visions of the third-period debacle in Game No. 2 started to dance through the minds of the Garden spectators, but Johnny Bucyk killed the rally with a strong individual effort, and the Bruins ultimately got a 7-3 victory. The Garden crowd jeered Dryden, yelling, "The Bruins ain't Hahvud, kid," as the Canadiens left the ice. "We'll be back," said John Ferguson. "We'll be back."

Although the Cheevers-Dryden confrontation was probably a standoff, mostly because Dryden stopped 56 Boston shots while Cheevers had to cope with only 27 Montreal attempts, the Bruins clearly won the other matchups. Esposito scored a goal and took 10 more shots at Dryden, while Sanderson totally blunted Beliveau when Jean had the puck or was in position to get it. Most important, though, Orr played a strong game—not as spectacular as in his hat-trick performance the previous Sunday, but solid, solid.

Back in Montreal for the sixth game Thursday night, Al MacNeill made one more change in his lineup. Hoping to add some speed and aggressiveness on the wing, he decided to move Henri Richard from center to right wing, a position Henri had not played since the 1950s. They had been fairly docile in the previous game, but now the Canadiens came on with speed and muscle. Peter Mahovlich scored early, skating through four Bruins and beating Cheevers from 25 feet. After Esposito scored on a power play to tie the score, Richard made a clever move to beat Cheevers with a backhander to give Montreal a 2-1 lead. Boston tied the score again on another power-play goal, but the Canadiens were still flying. With two Bruins in the penalty box, Jacques Lemaire broke the tie, and four minutes later J.C. Tremblay beat Cheevers for a 4-2 lead. Henri scored again and so did Peter Mahovlich as the Canadiens overpowered the Bruins 8-3. It was Boston's worst defeat of the year.

Mahovlich is called Peter the Clown by his teammates, including his brother Frank, because of the pranks he likes to play in hotel lobbies—like setting the newspapers of lobby sitters afire. He ignited Orr's temper in the third period and had a pretty fair fight with him. Orr won. It was the only thing Boston won all night.

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