Robinson, particularly, seems to be emerging as the prototype of an entirely new style of defenseman: someone with many of Orr's puck-handling traits, but also someone who can bruise bodies and play policeman when necessary. "It's like being both the quarterback and middle linebacker," says Shero.
Bowman maintains that the 6'3", 210-pound Robinson is "the best body checker in the game." Robinson bounced so many Flyers into the boards during last season's Stanley Cup final that Philadelphia spent the next eight months putting together the deal that brought the 24-year-old Dailey from Vancouver in January. Dailey easily was the best Flyer against the Bruins. "Very simply, Dailey's a superstar, another Robinson," says Cherry. " Philadelphia should get arrested for grand theft for giving up so little to get him."
On the ice Robinson has the reach of a basketball center, and has become a craftsman with his stick. "You think you're safely around him," says New York's Billy Harris, "and suddenly this stick appears from nowhere and takes the puck away from you." Statistically, Robinson led NHL defensemen with 85 points this season, and his plus-minus rating was a spectacular plus-107, meaning that when Robinson was on the ice the Canadiens scored 107 more goals than they gave up. The next best defenseman in the ratings finished with a plus-47.
Robinson, Lapointe and Savard offered Goaltender Ken Dryden perfect protection in Game Two as the Canadiens broke through the Islanders' stiff defenses for three late goals and a 3-0 victory, giving them a two-games-to-nothing lead in the series.
Potvin was inconsequential in both games at Montreal, rarely rushing the puck and repeatedly losing it to the Canadiens' persistent forecheckers. Back on his home ice Thursday night, though, the 23-year-old Potvin silenced, at least for the moment, those critics who claim he cannot singlehandedly lift his team in a big game. His performance was a microcosm of a turbulent season during which he has had frequent personality conflicts with his teammates. He made a bad clearing pass that Montreal instantly converted into a 1-0 lead, then atoned for his mistake by tying the score with a neat goal-mouth tip-in past Dryden. Minutes later Potvin made another bad clearing pass that Montreal turned into another instant goal and a 2-1 lead. But in the closing seconds of the first period Potvin got that goal back, too, beating Dryden from in close. Obviously aroused, Potvin helped the Islanders take command during the next two periods, and New York won impressively, 5-3.
There was nothing Potvin or anyone else could have done for the Islanders two nights later in Game Four. For the first nine minutes Robinson, Lapointe and Savard permitted few opponents to cross the Montreal blue line, while at the other end of the ice the Canadien forwards swarmed over Potvin and his teammates, forced countless careless passes and ripped three goals past Billy Smith. End of game.
And now, barring a miracle Islander revival, the Montreal Three will gang up on Brad Park in the finals.