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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

Beliveau handled Sanderson easily, and half a dozen Montreal checkers kept Esposito tightly guarded whenever Phil was near Dryden. Meanwhile, Dryden got an assist on one of Peter Mahovlich's goals, and when the public-address man announced it the Forum crowd stood and cheered the goaltender for a solid minute.

Orr played inconsistently. "I don't know what's the matter," he said. "I want to go, but when I turn it on I don't go anywhere." He thought for a moment. "I'd better go when I turn it on Sunday. We'd all better. Cripes."

As most of North America knows by now Orr did not go, ending that remarkable affair and permitting some reflection on the other playoff battles. New York and Minnesota managed to settle their feuds with Toronto and St. Louis in six games, and Chicago, of course, had required only four games to dispose of Philadelphia. For the Rangers—who rallied behind Eddie Giacomin's goaltending and some sudden goal scoring by their captain, Bob Nevin—it was the first time in 21 years they had won any kind of a series in Stanley Cup play. For the North Stars—who turned to Gump Worsley, one of the two NHL goalies who still refuse to wear a mask, and a former collegian named Lou Nanne for urgent help after they lost two of their first three games—it marked the first time in three playoffs that they had defeated their bitter mid-country rivals, the Blues, and it also meant that for the first time since expansion the Blues would not be playing in the final cup series.

The Rangers seemed to have a simple game plan for the Maple Leafs. From the start they directed their attack at crusty old Bob Baun, the very good Leaf defenseman who is the one steadying influence on the other Toronto defenders, all of whom are in their early 20s. While doing this, though, the Rangers forgot to play the close-checking hockey that has made them a good team. As a result they barely squeaked past Toronto 5-4 in the first game, lost the second game 4-1 and then lost the third game 3-1. When Giacomin allowed eight goals in the first two games he was replaced by Gilles Villemure. Indeed, it seemed that Giacomin's history of poor playoff performances was being replayed.

Still, Emile Francis, the New York coach and general manager, went back to Giacomin for the fourth game—a critical one for the Rangers. And suddenly Giacomin played like the Giacomin of the regular season. He limited the Maple Leafs to four goals in the next three games, and the Rangers won all three. The last was best, a masterpiece of suspense as Nevin scored nearly 10 minutes into sudden-death overtime to win for the Rangers 2-1. Ironically, Nevin has been the least favorite Ranger among the fans at Madison Square Garden. "The first time I make a bad play in the Garden I'll get the same old business from the fans," Nevin said before the Rangers flew to Chicago for the opener in their semifinal series with Chicago, which they also won 2-1 in overtime.

When Nevin was scoring his winning goal, the organist at The Met in Bloomington, Minn. was just starting to play Bye, Bye, Blues, and the 15,370 packed into the rink began to serenade the visitors from St. Louis, who, at the time, were losing 5-2. Then the place fell quiet. "I told the organist to stop," said North Stars Coach Jack Gordon, "because I wanted to win the series first—and then celebrate." The score remained 5-2—and, boy, did the North Stars celebrate.

Fierce opponents since the first days of expansion, the Blues and the North Stars had waged continuous guerrilla warfare that St. Louis always seemed to win. But not this time. Worsley stepped into the goal last Sunday night and, despite a pulled groin muscle, he stopped the Blues 2-1 to even the series at two games apiece. Gump played superbly in Minnesota Tuesday when the North Stars, on a last-gasp goal by Lou Nanne, upset the Blues 4-3, and he was strong again in the 5-2 victory Thursday that won the series. For Worsley it was a profitable week. Gump has a $37,500 base salary, and he gets a bonus of $500 for each victory. The three wins over the Blues, then, were worth an extra $1,500—in addition to the $2,250 he earned by playing on a winning quarterfinal team.

For all their trouble, the North Stars immediately got more—Montreal. Much would depend on Gump Worsley, nature's most successful copy of the fireplug—and a man who hates to fly. When last seen, however, the Gumper didn't really need an airplane.

As for Bobby Orr, he said, "I'm going to go home and practice playing hockey."

1 2 3