Last week against Boston, Taylor came down the ice one-on-one against rookie Defenseman Brad McCrimmon. Knowing Taylor's game, Dionne headed for the net. As Taylor broke along the boards, McCrimmon grabbed his stick. Without breaking stride, Taylor reached down and twice pushed the puck ahead with his glove until he could get his stick free. As he slipped into the corner, Taylor passed the puck out front, where Dionne, in full stride, swept it past Yves Belanger.
Like Simmer, Taylor has been a considerable surprise to the Kings, having been drafted 210th in 1975. "He's so aggressive and he inspires the team, because you can't intimidate him," says Dionne. "People who say he scored 43 goals only because he played with me are wrong. He could do it with anybody."
Intimidation is something the 5'7�", 190-pound Dionne has long had to endure. At one point last season, following a brawl against Philadelphia, he talked about quitting the game. Not out of fear, mind you, but disgust. "I wasn't born to put a stick in another guy's face," he says. "Nobody minds getting hit hard, but somebody who tries to intimidate you with his stick in your face all night...why? It's kid stuff. Because a guy's skillful and a beautiful skater, why should you take him out of the game?"
Dionne, who wasn't named Beaver because of any special eagerness to labor diligently at both ends of the ice, but because Gordie Howe noted a likeness between Dionne and the little Indian in the Red Ryder comic strip, says, "People have always said, ' Dionne's just a one-way player.' Well, now that I'm with these guys, I can play some defense, too. What we have on our line is three honest hard workers." He suddenly begins to laugh. "But I'm probably the worst."
As a team, the Kings not only are scoring goals in heaps (60), but they are also leading the league in goals allowed (55). Last Thursday's 4-2 win over the Rangers was the first game all year in which they had held an opponent to fewer than three goals, and only once before that had they allowed fewer than four.
For now, no one in L.A. seems worried about the Kings' defensive shortcomings, at least not as long as the Line With No Name is hot. "We kid the guys about being The Only Line," Dionne says. "But hockey is a team game. You can't win with one line. So we named the rest of the guys The Other Line, Another Line and The End of the Line. It's in fun. I don't think they take the attention we're getting badly. One of my goals is to prove I'm a winner, as Lafleur has. There's nothing phony about what we're trying to do for the team."
Ah, The Party Line. Well, even if scouts once viewed the talents of Dionne's linemates as Border Line, there's nothing phony about what they've done in their first 51 games together.