SI Vault
Mark Mulvoy
June 05, 1978
As expected, the Canadiens won their third straight NHL championship, but only after an unexpected battle from the Boston Bruins
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June 05, 1978

The Cup Runneth Ever

As expected, the Canadiens won their third straight NHL championship, but only after an unexpected battle from the Boston Bruins

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That goal launched an all-out Montreal barrage against Cheevers, and in short order the Canadiens had their victory, scoring each of their four goals when at least one Bruin was in the penalty box, and taking a 3-2 lead in the series. For his part, Savard assisted on Robinson's goal and also helped set up goals for Pierre Mondou and Pierre Larouche.

The Robinsons, Savards, Lafleurs and Drydens aside, what distinguishes the Canadiens from the pretenders in the NHL is their exceptional depth. Or quality in numbers, as Bowman calls it, thinking about the Mondous, Larouches and Tremblays, who would be stars in other cities—Larouche, in fact, once was the star of the Pittsburgh Penguins—but are not considered mature enough to play regularly in Montreal.

"Over the last 10 years the Bruins have had 11 first-round draft choices," says Boston General Manager Harry Sinden. "Over that same period Montreal—because of all the deals Pollock has made—has had probably 30 first-round picks. The difference is about 19 players. In effect, the Canadiens have had two teams to play around with for 10 years, while everybody else has had only one."

In 1974 the wily Pollock used one of his five first-round selections in the amateur lottery to pick Tremblay, then an 18-year-old with the Junior Canadiens. In 1975 Pollock used one of his two first-round choices to take Mondou, a center for the Junior Canadiens. Then, last November, using a top draft choice in a reverse way, Pollock packaged his disappointing No. 1 pick in 1976, Peter Lee, and fading star Peter Mahovlich and mailed them to Pittsburgh in exchange for the 22-year-old Larouche and, of course, "future considerations."

Tremblay is a dogged board man and a tough fighter, Mondou is shiftier than even Lafleur, and Larouche is a sniper who two years ago scored 53 goals for the Penguins. Still, Tremblay dressed for just the last three games of the Boston series and only after Bowman decided that the Canadiens needed more heart and muscle against the Bruins. Mondou played mostly in spurts, unleashed by Bowman when the coach thought the Bruins were dragging. And Larouche sat out the first four games of the Boston series, dressing for the last two only after Bowman decided that the Montreal power play needed some pep.

"When there are guys like that sitting around and waiting to take your job, you keep your rear in gear," says Shutt. Gainey agrees. "Mondou's just about ready to play 27, 28 minutes a game," he says. "When he does, you'll be hearing his name a lot—just like you hear Lafleur's."

Jacques Lemaire, Shutt's center on the line with Lafleur, hardly thought it much of a joke when Shutt recently said of Mondou, "In two years this team will have a topflight center."

While Mondou and Tremblay are products of the Canadiens' system and have bided their time as irregulars, Larouche is not yet what Savard calls "a Canadien" and, in fact, may never become one. "Larouche is not used to hard work," Savard says, "because everything has always come too easy for him. He has the feeling that because he scored 53 goals one season for Pittsburgh, he should be on the ice with the Canadiens."

Bowman, for his part, berates Larouche mercilessly, on the ice and off. "I don't understand you," he snaps at Larouche. "The hardest thing to do in hockey is put the puck in the net, and you can do that blindfolded. The easiest thing to do in hockey is check, but you won't even try to do that. Pierre, I'll tell you this. Until you learn how to check, until you come onto the ice ready to work, you're not going to play too much for Montreal."

Larouche played only sparingly in the decisive sixth game Thursday night, but Tremblay—worried sick about his job security—scored his two goals and Mondou, taking a regular turn at center for the first time in the finals, directly set up two of the Montreal goals, one of Tremblay's, the other by Shutt. The final Montreal goal was credited to Rejean Houle, but it actually was accidentally tipped past Cheevers by one of his defensemen.

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