A. Yes, 5-1, but no great credit to me. Pittsburgh's not the toughest team in the league, and our players had a good night against them.
Q. That's something that has been commented on many times—the way a hockey team will play extra hard when it has a rookie goaltender in the net.
A. It's very true. They will play extra hard, because they feel that they have to—especially defensively. I stopped 35 or 36 shots that night, a good average game, nothing sensational. But it was better than breaking in at Montreal and giving up eight goals and being totally demoralized.
Q. As I recall, you played a couple more of what you would call "good average" games, and then the New York Rangers really socked it to you, or tried to.
A. Right. That was my first big test. It was the first game where my goaltending was a factor, the first game we might have lost if I hadn't done my job. In the earlier games all I had to do was avoid making any terrible mistakes and just be very very average. The game was in Madison Square Garden, and the Rangers played well. I wound up stopping 49 shots.
Q. And winning 6-2.
A. Yeah, on some good saves and some lucky ones. But the big thing as far as my personal development was concerned was that each save bolstered my confidence, whether it was a smart save or a stupid one. I felt none of the nervousness that I had in the earlier games. And I came out of that game with more of a personal feeling that I belonged in the NHL, that I could play in the NHL. I said to myself, "Well, all right! Well, good!"
Q. It always puzzled me that Al MacNeil held you out of the two games against Boston in the last week of the season. He knew you were going to have to play Boston in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and he knew Boston was the team to beat. So why not give you the experience?
A. I wondered, too, but later I found out that was part of Al's master plan for breaking me in. He said to me, "Don't worry about the fact that you're not starting against Boston. It doesn't have anything to do with who'll start the playoffs." You see, we didn't need to win those Boston games to get into the playoffs, and our guys were relaxing a little just then, and Al was afraid I'd go out and get bombed by Boston and lose my confidence. Our last game of the year was against Boston, and once again I watched from the press box. That was the night they scored their 399th goal of the season, a record for the NHL.
Q. Beating the Bruins in the playoffs was one of the big upsets in recent sports history. What do you remember about it?