Midway through the
third period of last Sunday's showdown between Montreal and Boston, the old
seigneurs and brash young lords of hockey, Ken Dryden stretched all 42 inches
of his left arm across the mouth of the Canadien net and speared a
couldn't-miss shot by Phil Esposito. Esposito, Public Enemy No. 1 to
goaltenders, having scored the criminal total of 76 goals during the season,
stared at Dryden, cursed him—"You thieving giraffe!"—and then slammed
his curved stick against the glass behind the goal. "I looked at the faces
of the Bruins," Dryden said later, "and I could see it all so clearly.
They all looked defeated."
The Bruins were
defeated (see cover), and it was Dryden, with help from the Mahovlich brothers,
Peter and Frank, and some of that inexhaustible Montreal pride that upset them
4-2 in the Boston Garden in the seventh game of their wild and wicked Stanley
better than we had ever dreamed," said Bobby Orr, who through the seven
games performed more erratically than his Boston worshipers had ever dreamed he
It was the first
time all year that the Bruins, runaway conquerors of the East, really had to
win a game, and when they failed, Montreal's John Ferguson crowed, "That's
one dynasty that didn't last very long."
suffering spectators in the Garden and a national television audience, Peter
Mahovlich set up a pretty first-period goal to put the Canadiens ahead 2-1, and
brother Frank killed the last flickering Boston hopes with his second goal of
the game, which made it 4-1 in the final period—after Jacques Lemaire had
poke-checked the puck away from Orr. It was Frank Mahovlich, a wanderer from
Toronto and Detroit only recently come to Montreal, who said, "With the
Canadiens, pride is instilled even in the ratholes of the Forum."
In defeat the
Bruins proved conclusively that they go only where Bobby Orr takes them. When
Orr was able to control the puck with his private games of keepaway, Boston was
invincible. But when the Canadiens were able to stymie Bobby by harassing him
with two forecheckers or by ganging up on him at their blue line with what
looked like hockey's version of the goal-line stand, as they did Sunday, Boston
sputtered like any machine suddenly deprived of its horsepower. "Stop
Orr," said John Ferguson of the Canadiens, "and you do stop the Bruins.
It's that simple."
complexion of the series turned on what Orr did—or did not do—in every game. As
the week began the series stood at 2-2; i.e., two superior Orr performances vs.
two miserable ones.
"Now it's down
to the best two of three," Phil Esposito said as the Bruins flew home for
the fifth game, "and there's no way the Canadiens are going to beat us in
Boston. No way. Believe me."
conviction, the other Bruins were wary as they waited for the Canadiens. Cocky
and brash during their romp through the league during the regular schedule,
they were now morose. Most of them had expected Montreal to die in four
straight games. "Don't those damned little Frogs ever quit?" one player
For both the Bruins
and the Canadiens, it was now obvious, too, that besides Orr's battle with
himself there were three other key matchups that ultimately would decide the
winner. First of all there were the goaltenders—Dryden and Gerry Cheevers. At
6'4" and 210 pounds, Dryden covers most of the net, something the Boston
shooters found most discouraging. The strongest complaints came from Esposito,
who was not playing like a man who had scored 76 goals. "In 1968 Gump
Worsley was like St. Peter at the pearly gates against us. The next year that
little Roggy Vachon robbed me blind. And now these bleeping Canadiens come up
with Dryden. Cripes. The kid's got paws like a giraffe." What made Esposito
particularly annoyed at the rookie was the fact that Phil's low shots for the
corners—shots that were goals against normal-sized net-minders all season—kept
deflecting off Dryden's pads. "My brother wouldn't do the things to me that
this guy has been doing," Esposito said, shaking his head.