Clutching a bottle of water in one hand and a six-pack of high-glucose GatorLode in the other, Toronto Maple Leaf center Doug Gilmour tottered out of the Great Western Forum on Sunday night looking as if he had just wrecked a Harley. He was pallid, sunken-eyed and hollow-cheeked, and his recently stitched-up left eyebrow was doing a remarkable impression of a caterpillar.
The Los Angeles Kings have all but tap-danced on Gilmour's face in the Campbell Conference finals, which was tied at two games apiece after the Leafs' 4-2 win on Sunday. Gilmour has been treated to a slam-bang selection of Marty McSorley's greatest hits, he has gotten up close and personal with Tony Granato, and he will probably be picking shards of Tomas Sandstrom's stick out of his solar plexus for the rest of his natural life. Gilmour has hardly let any of it bother him. "He's not a big man, but he's got the heart of a lion," says Toronto enforcer Ken Baumgartner. "You can see it in his eyes. It's like he's saying, I'm going to go out and win this game. Who's with me?"
Apparently, the Maple Leafs are. In Game 4 Gilmour didn't score, but he set up a goal and, as usual, threw his 5'11" body around with little regard for his personal safety. He played the point on the power play, killed a rash of penalties in the second period and, with Toronto holding a 4-1 lead, skated rings around the Kings as the Leafs silenced the towel-waving, beach ball-batting, late-arriving, early-departing L.A. crowd.
For the Kings to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in the franchise's 26-year history and face the Montreal Canadiens, who closed out the New York Islanders on Monday night in the Wales Conference finals, Los Angeles has to figure out a way to stop Gilmour from controlling the flow of every game. At week's end Gilmour led all playoff scorers with 29 points, one more than the Kings' Wayne Gretzky. "He's our quarterback," says Toronto defenseman Jamie Macoun. " Wayne is playing great, but no one is working any harder right now than Dougie Gilmour."
While the Great One was reduced to a supporting role in the first four games of the series, the spotlight shone on the incredible shrinking Gilmour, who has dropped at least 20 pounds from his training-camp weight of 175. "I play better when I'm lighter, believe it or not," he says. "It's gotten to the point that I almost hate to eat."
No wonder. To keep up his strength, he forces himself to chow down on carbohydrates as often as five times a day. He has had more pasta and potatoes than he can stand, and he swills can after 280-calorie can of GatorLode. Still, he dreads stepping onto the scale after games. He's afraid that too much of himself has evaporated and that the next time he needs a burst of energy in the third period or in overtime, it might not be there.
The stress shows in the deep lines that are etched around his eyes. His hair, which used to be jet black, is now flecked with gray. Nicknamed Killer by a former teammate because of a supposed resemblance to Charles Manson, Gilmour, 29, was once considered for a movie role as Jesse James. By the time this series is over, he may be better suited to play Jesse's old man.
The Kings are doing their best to hasten the aging process. "We're trying to keep punishing him, pounding him, hitting him and getting in his face," says L.A. forward Warren Rychel. "He's got to wear down sooner or later."
Don't bet on it. "When a guy takes a run at me, it's like a wake-up call," says Gilmour. "You've got to have a mean side. You've got to say, 'Hey, they're coming at me, I'm going to beat 'em.' "
That's what happened in Game 1 in Toronto. Each time the Kings attacked him, Gilmour made them pay. He had two goals and two assists and delivered numerous jarring hits in Toronto's 4-1 victory. He dominated the third period, especially one six-minute stretch, during which he scored, set up the other two Maple Leaf goals and leveled Los Angeles defenseman Alexei Zhitnik with a hip-check from hell. "That's the best six minutes I've ever seen anybody play," said Harry Neale, analyst for Hockey Night in Canada.