THE KILLERS: BUFFALO'S DON LUCE AND CRAIG RAMSAY—For six years Luce and Ramsay have teamed to kill penalties, simultaneously battling the clock and the manpower disadvantage to keep power-play specialists like Persson and Bossy from scoring. The small, pesky Ramsay relies on quickness; the rangy Luce employs his long reach and the NHL's heaviest stick, which he is forever rapping against some unfortunate's ankles. Ramsay and Luce know each other so well that when Ramsay darts here, Luce automatically glides there. "We try to make them start over or force a long pass that can be intercepted," says Ramsay. If they do intercept the puck, watch out. Luce has twice scored eight shorthanded goals in a season; Ramsay led the league this year with five.
THE QUICK-DRAW KID: MONTREAL'S DOUG JARVIS—"From the time I plant my skates, I watch the puck," says Jarvis, discussing his technique on face-offs. "I can't ever remember actually seeing it hit the ice. A face-off is seldom won cleanly. Usually the puck just lies there dead for a split second. That's what you have to react to—getting the second chance." Cleanly or not, Jarvis, whom Bowman calls on to take anything resembling an "important" face-off, wins more than his share of the 20-plus he has in a game. Unlike Boston's center, Gregg Sheppard, who tries to unnerve face-off rivals with chatter ("Haven't scored a goal in a while, have you?"), Jarvis remains silent, a model of concentration and anticipation. The puck drops, the sticks clash and, voil�, Montreal wins another face-off.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS: BOSTON'S TERRY O'REILLY—In guiding his club to the NHL's second-best record, Bruin Coach Don Cherry ran what he gleefully called "a sweatshop." Nobody sweated more than Joseph James Terence O'Reilly. Never one for fancy moves, O'Reilly barreled his way to a career-high 29 goals. But, as always, the 6'1", 200-pound winger played his best hockey in the corners, banging, digging and otherwise making his presence felt. He has a special knack for kicking the puck loose, a talent he attributes to his experience as a high school soccer player in Ontario. O'Reilly often handles two opponents on the boards at once, which, as he notes, "leaves a teammate open for a pass." This season he got off quite a few such passes, leading to goals for the Bruins—and assists for himself. Thus, the rugged O'Reilly achieved an improbable double, setting a club record for penalty minutes (211) while also leading the Bruins in points (90). Bobby Orr, for one, thinks O'Reilly should be the league's MVP this season.
Surprise! Montreal won only two of the seven categories. Still, there is little cause for jubilation among the opposition. The Canadiens have Gainey and Jarvis and they also come frighteningly close to the best in every other specialty. Montreal's Yvon Lambert does a pretty fair imitation of Dornhoefer in the crease, and Lambert, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay and Gainey will go into the corners with anybody. And when fists fly, the Canadiens can count on all sorts of bruisers, including 6'7" Gilles Lupien, a rookie defenseman known in the minors as The Towering Inferno. The Canadiens, in other words, have stars and specialists. Name your weapon, and they will slay you with it.
Which brings up the question of whether anybody can hope to beat them. Montreal had a routinely spectacular regular-season record of 59-10-11 but lost three of five games to Buffalo, the only team that can skate with the Canadiens. The Sabres found a sneaky way of foiling at least one of the Canadiens' specialists. That was Gainey, who generally kept busy against Buffalo, watching either Danny Gare or Rene Robert, the Sabres' top right wings. While that was happening, another Buffalo right wing, Gary McAdam, was scoring a total of four goals and assisting on two others against Montreal—including the winning goal in two of the Sabres' victories. Perhaps because his accomplishments occurred over the space of three months, the Canadiens never quite seemed to get the message that it was McAdam—not Robert or Gare—who had the hot hand.
Gainey implies things will be different in the playoffs. "You don't see teams often enough in the regular season," he acknowledges. "During the playoffs you study them and get scouting reports. You could be against the same team seven times in 10 days. They get to know you and you get to know them. That's when it gets interesting."