So there was no bloodbath. But, surprise, surprise, the Flyers, skating way over their heads, played it straight just about as well as the Canadiens. They won the first game on MacLeish's overtime goal and they actually outplayed the Canadiens in the second game last Tuesday night, although losing in overtime. These games were interrupted by only two fights, a record low for the Flyers. But after Montreal's first victory Coach Scotty Bowman started the temper war by suggesting that a mistake by Gary Dornhoefer had cost Philadelphia the game and that Shero was not very bright if he thought Dave Schultz, a plodding skater, could check his speedy Yvan Cournoyer.
"Bowman's too smart to be a coach," Shero said. "He ought to be a foreign diplomat. In Russia, maybe. The farther away the better. I feel sorry for Bowman. It's hard to coach a team with 20 stars. They're not happy with him. He's not happy with them. The press isn't happy with him. The public's not happy with him. I guess the only one who loves him is his wife and maybe his dog." Schultz was more explicit: "Bowman says I can't check Cournoyer. I can check him. I can spear him, too."
Clarke, the captain of the Flyers, was incensed. "They couldn't win the first game with Bowman's brilliant coaching," Clarke said. "Who's he to talk about our players? He's got enough trouble with his own." Bowman was having trouble with his players, some of whom seemed to be skating in a fog. "There's zilch spirit around here right now," complained one Canadien.
As the teams squared off for the third game of the series in Philadelphia Thursday night, it was immediately obvious that the Flyers were resuming their muscle-bending tactics. Schultz had a talk with Marc Tardif early in the game and advised Tardif, one of the more rugged Canadiens, not to be a hero. "Leave my guys alone or else you'll get it," Schultz told Tardif, approximately. And soon there was a fight. Schultz vs. Pierre Bouchard. Two good heavyweights meeting for the third time this season. Schultz won the first fight, and they battled to a draw in the rematch. "I knew we'd go at it," Bouchard said. "He told a couple of guys around Montreal that he wanted to get me. And he said he wasn't going to use the Marquess of Queensberry rules either."
Schultz had 19 fights during the season; he can't recall any defeats. "I probably wouldn't be here at all if I couldn't fight," Schultz said, twitching his Fu Manchu mustache. "The first thing I do is grab for the other guy's right shoulder with my left hand. He probably gets in a few punches, but then I'm ready to take off. I start slow, but I usually finish strong in the late rounds."
This time, though, Bouchard immobilized Schultz' right arm with his left hand, and then he started to pop Schultz in the face with his own right hand. Round One went to Bouchard, so did Rounds Two and Three. In Round Four, Bouchard and Schultz began to butt heads like two rams, and then the linesmen stepped in and called it off.
More important, the rest of the Flyers lost their aggressiveness, and by the time the game reached the third period the Canadiens were in control. So much so that a frustrated Flyer fan tore down a banner taped to the wall that read: "Help Stamp Out Air Pollution, Scotty—Keep Your Mouth Shut."
Bowman did. His players kept their mouths shut, too. Except for Henri Richard, who had nullified Clarke's effectiveness with persistent checking. "Tell me," Richard said, shaking his head, "will it ever be easy? Will we ever have an easy game in the playoffs?"