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The Legacy of the Big Bad Bruins

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Old
02-10-2012, 03:41 PM
  #1
cam042686
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The Legacy of the Big Bad Bruins

Question to you all. Did the “Big Bad Bruins” “underachieve” in their day? If so how many more cups should they have won?

Did the "Big Bad Bruins" under-achive? I have really struggled with this. Here are my thoughts and I’d love some feedback.

First my premise is the era of the “Big Bad Bruins” is from 1967-78 until1974-75. That is the arrival of Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, and Fred Stanfield and the departure of Esposito to the Rangers. Before they arrived the Bruins had talent – Bobby Orr, Ted Green, John Bucyk, Johnny McKenzie etc – but the Espo deal turned them from a rising young team to a very good and soon to be great team. The arrival of Don Cherry in 1974 and the Espo trade in fall of 1975 marked the end of “fire wagon Bruin hockey” and the arrival of Cherry’s “lunch bucket brigade.”

1967-68 – The Bruins make the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. They get swept by Montreal in the first round. Games are somewhat competitive but Montreal is just plain better this year. No under-achieving this year.

1968-69 – The Bruins and Canadiens battle for first place all year – Montreal comes out on top. Phil Esposito becomes the first player in history to record more than 100 points in a year. Orr has a monster year. In the playoffs Boston crushes Toronto in 4 straight. The first two wins in Boston are by scores of 10-0 and 7-0. In the semi-finals Montreal and Boston stage an epic 6 game series. Boston loses 3 games in O/T including Game 6 in double overtime. Montreal advances although Boston had the edge in play every game. They came at Rogie Vachon “in waves” and he had a career series – he was unbelievable. I think it is fair to say here that this was a battle of evenly matched teams, one of whom had to lose. If Boston had beaten Montreal I think they would have embarrassed St. Louis much the way they did in the 72 playoffs. I don’t think Boston under-achieved here.

1969-70 – Boston wins the Stanley Cup in very decisive fashion.

1970-71 – Boston tears the NHL apart in the regular season and Orr and Esposito set numerous offensive records. In the quarter-finals they face Montreal and lose in 7 games. I think it can be argued that they did under-achieve. Lets look at the series.

Game 1 – Boston wins 3-1 on a winning goal by Bobby Orr. Montreal however outplayed Boston by a wide margin in the game. Gerry Cheevers stands on his head in this game allowing Boston to win.

Game 2 – Boston rocks Ken Dryden (who was outplayed by Cheevers the game before) and jumps into a 5-1 lead. Then the roof caves in – Montreal scores 6 straight to win 7-5. Question – why on earth did Tom Johnson replace Gerry Cheevers with Ed Johnson in this game? Cheevers had been the Bruins playoff goalie since 1968 and had been magnificent in the first game. What was Tom Johnson thinking? And to add to insult it was the Bruins checking line of Sanderson, Westfall and Marcotte along with Orr that were on the ice for most of the Canadiens come back this game.

Game 3 – Phil Esposito puts Boston ahead 1-0 and then Boston completely falls flat. They lose 3-1 and only Cheevers who is super in net again keeps it close.

Game 4 – Bobby Orr goes wild, scores 3 times and Boston pelts Dryden and Montreal 5-2. Series is tied.

Game 5 – The Bruins kick the stuffing out of Dryden and Montreal 7-3. The Bruins look like the offensive machine that had torn the NHL apart all year.

Game 6 – What happened to the Bruins this night? They rolled over and played dead. Montreal beat the hell out of them 8-3. The entire Boston team stank out the joint on a night they could have buried Montreal for good and advanced.

Game 7 – Boston jumps out 1-0 on an early goal by Ken Hodge. Then they “go flat” and give up 4 straight goals. Cheevers for the 2nd night in a row is off. In the 3rd they do try and bombard Dryden who is fantastic. Bucyk puts one by Dryden but that is it. Boston loses 4-2. I think it is safe to say they badly under-achieved here. Montreal had a very good team but there is no way when you have a team as talented as the Bruins that you blow a 5-1 lead and lose 7-5. Or after you build up a 3-2 lead in game that you get out scored 12-4 in the final two games.

1971-72 – Boston wins the Stanley Cup. Toronto is competitive with them in the first round (Bernie Parent played very well in net for the Leafs in this series). Boston then wipes out St. Louis in 4 straight lop-sided games. The Blues were out scored 28-9 and were never in it. The Bruins then beat the Rangers 4-2 to win the Cup. The Rangers are competitive but Orr is the difference.

1972-73 – Boston loses 4 starters to the WHA and Ed Westfall to the Islanders. Derek Sanderson returns late in the year and plays well, but the Bruins “lay an egg” in the playoffs losing in the first round 4-1 to the Rangers. Esposito blows his knee up in Game 2 however I don’t think that was the main factor. Boston’s goaltending of Jacques Plante, Ross Brooks and Ed Johnston was awful. Orr was ordinary and the team was just plain flat. I think they under-achieved here in how they lost. It wasn’t that they lost to New York. After all the New York Rangers were a very good team. It was how meekly they went down.

1973-74 – The Bruins have a great regular season and advance to the finals against Philly. Now this gets funny here.

Game 1 – Boston jumps ahead 2-0 and is in complete control but then seem to lose their edge and the Flyers fight back and tie it. In the final 30 seconds Hodge makes a super play getting control of the puck in the Philly zone and centers to Orr who beats Bernie Parent. Boston wins 3-2. Narrow escape?

Game 2 – Boston storms out of the gate and takes a 2-0 lead on goals by Wayne Cashman and Esposito. Again though they seem to lose their edge and Philly fights back to tie it on a last minute goal by Moose Dupont. Parent stops Bucyk on a breakaway in O/T and then Bobby Clarke scores in O/T. Philly wins 3-2.

Game 3 – Johnny Bucyk scores early to put Boston up 1-0. Then Phily takes over and dominate winning 4-1. The entire Bruin team is totally flat. The media in particular roast Esposito who played a simply terrible game. He looked totally lifeless out there.

Game 4 – A game marred by fights. The Flyers goon it up and the Bruins give it right back. In a close hard fought game Flyers win 4-2.

Game 5 – With their backs against the wall the Bruins crush Philly 5-1. Orr goes wild in this game and the Flyers are simply over powered.

Game 6 – The Bruins playing desperate hockey control play and fire away at Parent however Bernie stands on his head and Boston loses 1-0. (Gilles Gilbert was super in net for Boston this game.) Did they under-achieve here? I think they took Philly bit too lightly at first and fell behind 2-1 in the series. From Game 4 onwards the Bruins cranked it up a notch however with the exception of Game 5 when they bombed Philly they could not penetrate Parent who was “inhuman” this year. Under-achieve –to me questionable.

1974-75 – Boston has another great season. They take on Chicago in the first round and win Game 1 easily – they just toyed with Chicago. Then Tony Esposito stands on his head over the next 2 games and the Black Hawks win the series. In Game 3 the Bruins fire over 50 shots at Esposito and lose! I don’t believe it is fair to say they under-achieved here. Nobody was going to beat Tony Esposito here.

So did they overall under-achieve? In my opinion they did in 1970-71 but outside of that I think it was more bad luck (running into hot goalies) or an equally good or better teams (Montreal.)



Thoughts?



Craig

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02-10-2012, 04:33 PM
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tarheelhockey
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I saw an interview where Phil Espositio said straight-out that they would have been a true dynasty if they hadn't partied so much.

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02-10-2012, 04:42 PM
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Didn't Esposito drink during games? I can't see that being true..

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02-10-2012, 04:43 PM
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Montreal had their number and beat them when both were equal.

They didn't come up big when things were stacked against them. The Oilers won WITHOUT GRETZKY and FUHR in 1990. Despite being past their peak. The Islanders won in the years past their regular season peak. The Habs just won most times they got close to the chance to win from 55-79.

Boston maybe did not underachieve but they certainly did not overachieve. They had the core of the team together (or big parts of it) for 8 years and they won 2 Championships.

Islanders had Bossy, Potvin, Gilles, Trottier for 10 seasons (last couple they were in decline though) and won 4 Cups.

Oilers had the core from I'll say the 2nd years of Kurri/Coffey etc... so for 10 seasons they had Kurri, Anderson, Messier and they lost Gretzky and Coffey along the way. 10 seasons - 5 Cups.

Montreal is not worth going through because they had essentially a dynasty from the mid 50's until 1979.

Penguins - Two Cups. Though they had issues with Mario's health, and only had the core depth talent for a shorter period then the other teams. Still in their very best season they failed to win the Cup and never got back to a final with Jagr and Mario after winning it.

Boston could have easily been like the Islanders or Oilers... they had so much talent and depth, they just couldn't put it together. Losing Cheevers to the WHA is not an excuse, they could have made a trade to get a legit goalie. They didn't they lost.

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02-10-2012, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I saw an interview where Phil Espositio said straight-out that they would have been a true dynasty if they hadn't partied so much.
What pro sports team ISN'T partying all the time? Read Shorthanded, the book about the Seals, they were doing just as much drinking and carousing during that time period. So the field(ice) was sufficiently leveled across the board in the NHL and the talent difference between teams was unaffected.

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02-10-2012, 08:31 PM
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Good breakdown, but I can't help but feel that they underachieved in general. Sure they went up against some good teams, or some hot goaltenders, but they were the best team in the league for nearly a decade, and they won 2 championships. The Oilers and Islanders were brought up, but I would point out that they won more championships in a league with more teams AND more competition due to the WHA merger.

They had no shortage of talent, but they seem to lack the heart, or at least it appears so to me now, looking back on things. Maybe at the time I would have felt otherwise, but I was too young for many of these years. They just had so many flat games, or times they were up in games or in a series, and didn't have that killer instinct to put the other team away.

And as someone else mentioned, they really never "rose up" to overcome any adverity so to speak. They won years they should have won because they were the best. They lost years they shouldn't have won because other teams were better. They never beat the odds. Worse yet, they lost years they should have won, because they were the best team. Like I say, it may be different looking through all these years, but they seem like a team that just wasn't hungry. The Flyers of the mid-70's were hungry. They had way less talent than Boston (not saying they weren't talented though, but just not on Boston's level), and yet they won just as many championships, and they won them back to back (if that means anything or not - I know some people care about such things).

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02-10-2012, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
I saw an interview where Phil Espositio said straight-out that they would have been a true dynasty if they hadn't partied so much.
That's a load of crap, and a complete copout. They certainly weren't the only team out there drinking. Alcohol was pretty much a way of life in the NHL through at least the mid-80's.

I also think the difference in talent level between the Flyers and Bruins isn't nearly as significant as some seem to think.


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02-13-2012, 05:53 PM
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Big Phil
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That's a load of crap, and a complete copout. They certainly weren't the only team out there drinking. Alcohol was pretty much a way of life in the NHL through at least the mid-80's.

I also think the difference in talent level between the Flyers and Bruins isn't nearly as significant as some seem to think.
In all honesty, at the time in 1974 that was thought to be a pretty big surprise. Philly was an expansion team in the eyes of many. How can they beat the Big Bad Bruins and Orr and Espo? They certainly weren't the favourites heading into that series. Should Boston of won in 1974? I hate to use the word "should" but I know that when you are 30 seconds away from taking a 2-0 series lead you have to close it out. But they didn't.

Even in 1971 when Boston lost to the Habs it wasn't as if it was a bottom feeder team. Check out that roster, the Habs were littered with HHOFers. And again, it was another Game #2 that they couldn't close out that sort of set the tone for the series. Whether it was 1971, 1973 or 1974 they certainly didn't lose to bad teams. But would they technically be a true dynasty if they won the Cup in either one of those years? Yes.

But 1975? How in the world they lost to the Hawks is beyond me. And wouldn't you know it, another Game #2 disaster. The Bruins win Game #2 in overtime and its over.

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02-13-2012, 08:00 PM
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In all honesty, at the time in 1974 that was thought to be a pretty big surprise. Philly was an expansion team in the eyes of many. How can they beat the Big Bad Bruins and Orr and Espo? They certainly weren't the favourites heading into that series. Should Boston of won in 1974? I hate to use the word "should" but I know that when you are 30 seconds away from taking a 2-0 series lead you have to close it out. But they didn't.
Boston was the favorite, but it was a slight favorite.

You had two teams that were both great at home.

Both of the first two games in Boston were tight into the final minute. In game one the Flyers were incensed that Cashman got away with a blatant interferene that led to the Orr game winner.

In game two the Flyers scored with the goalie pulled to tie it, and then Clarke won the game in OT.

Flyers could have won either game.


Orr was clearly the best player on either team. Parent though was in the middle of perhaps the finest two year strech of goaltending the world had seen to date.

Clarke and Espo were equals. MacLeish was at least equal to any other Boston forward. Flyers also had a significant edge behind the bench.

Also ask any Flyer from that team and they'll tell you that they thought the Rangers were the most talented team in the league. They'll also tell you that they were too soft.

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02-15-2012, 01:24 AM
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Big Phil
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Flyers Fan View Post
Boston was the favorite, but it was a slight favorite.

You had two teams that were both great at home.

Both of the first two games in Boston were tight into the final minute. In game one the Flyers were incensed that Cashman got away with a blatant interferene that led to the Orr game winner.

In game two the Flyers scored with the goalie pulled to tie it, and then Clarke won the game in OT.

Flyers could have won either game.


Orr was clearly the best player on either team. Parent though was in the middle of perhaps the finest two year strech of goaltending the world had seen to date.

Clarke and Espo were equals. MacLeish was at least equal to any other Boston forward. Flyers also had a significant edge behind the bench.

Also ask any Flyer from that team and they'll tell you that they thought the Rangers were the most talented team in the league. They'll also tell you that they were too soft.
It isn't as if the Flyers didn't have a good team. But to take yourself back to 1974 prior to the final, there weren't a lot of people giving the Flyers a chance. With the value of hindsight, we know just how great those Flyers teams ended up being with three Cup final appearances in a row. But Parent wasn't a playoff god then, Espo and Orr were. Not to mention perennial winners at that time.

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02-15-2012, 05:54 AM
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Quote:
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It isn't as if the Flyers didn't have a good team. But to take yourself back to 1974 prior to the final, there weren't a lot of people giving the Flyers a chance. With the value of hindsight, we know just how great those Flyers teams ended up being with three Cup final appearances in a row. But Parent wasn't a playoff god then, Espo and Orr were. Not to mention perennial winners at that time.
Media and public perception is often wrong.

Boston was the favorite and they should have been, primarily because they had home ice, and the Flyers could never win in Boston.

Boston didn't have a huge talent edge though.

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02-15-2012, 11:14 AM
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Media and public perception is often wrong.

Boston was the favorite and they should have been, primarily because they had home ice, and the Flyers could never win in Boston.

Boston didn't have a huge talent edge though.
Philly had a huge coaching edge.

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02-15-2012, 11:16 AM
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I saw an interview where Phil Espositio said straight-out that they would have been a true dynasty if they hadn't partied so much.
Espo says lots (and lots and lots) of things.

One of the great BSers in sports history.

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02-15-2012, 11:21 AM
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Montreal had their number and beat them when both were equal.

They didn't come up big when things were stacked against them. The Oilers won WITHOUT GRETZKY and FUHR in 1990. Despite being past their peak. The Islanders won in the years past their regular season peak. The Habs just won most times they got close to the chance to win from 55-79.

Boston maybe did not underachieve but they certainly did not overachieve. They had the core of the team together (or big parts of it) for 8 years and they won 2 Championships.

Islanders had Bossy, Potvin, Gilles, Trottier for 10 seasons (last couple they were in decline though) and won 4 Cups.

Oilers had the core from I'll say the 2nd years of Kurri/Coffey etc... so for 10 seasons they had Kurri, Anderson, Messier and they lost Gretzky and Coffey along the way. 10 seasons - 5 Cups.

Montreal is not worth going through because they had essentially a dynasty from the mid 50's until 1979.

Penguins - Two Cups. Though they had issues with Mario's health, and only had the core depth talent for a shorter period then the other teams. Still in their very best season they failed to win the Cup and never got back to a final with Jagr and Mario after winning it.

Boston could have easily been like the Islanders or Oilers... they had so much talent and depth, they just couldn't put it together. Losing Cheevers to the WHA is not an excuse, they could have made a trade to get a legit goalie. They didn't they lost.
Yes, without Fuhr they had to go with Ranford, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

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02-15-2012, 11:54 AM
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Art Ross chose the Bruins nickname for the "aggressive", "tough" qualities of it, which he modeled in the teams of the Eddie Shore '30s era. The fact that the post-1930 Bruins only won twice in forty years, in 1939 and 1941, before the 1970 Orr era is a huge travesty!

The battles with the Habs in the seventies are legendary, and they really are no better than 'above average for the eighties and nineties (except for late eighties I suppose) and first decade of the 21st century, so there's not much to talk about until last year!

Let's go back to the seven Stanley Cup Final losses (1927, 1930, 1943... all under Art Ross' watch,... 1946, 1953, 1957, 1958).

The Bruins have lost seven Stanley Cup Finals to the Canadiens... THAT is a legacy that should not be forgotten.

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02-15-2012, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
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Yes, without Fuhr they had to go with Ranford, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
It isn't just the players that win the Cup. If Cheevers takes off to the WHA... you replace him with a good goalie if you are the top team in the NHL and you are the Cup favourite... you need to get it done.

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02-15-2012, 01:43 PM
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Philly had a huge coaching edge.
Agreed. Boston had a slight talent edge, Flyers had a huge coaching advantage.

For all the complaining about Burns not being in the HHoF, Shero is an even bigger omission.

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02-15-2012, 03:58 PM
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It isn't just the players that win the Cup. If Cheevers takes off to the WHA... you replace him with a good goalie if you are the top team in the NHL and you are the Cup favourite... you need to get it done.
1972-73 was indeed a goalie mess in Boston with Johnston, Plante and even Ross Brooks taking a turn in goal.

They thought they acquired a good, young goalie when they flipped Fred Stanfield to Minnesota for Gilles Gilbert and in some ways they were right.

Gilbert, however, was notoriously hot and cold through out his career, too hot and cold for a cup contender. When he was good, like against the Flyers in the 74 finals or Montreal in the 79 semifinals, he was spectacular.

It's also telling that when he was at his absolute best, his team lost both series.

I've never heard any reason why they didn't take a run at reacquiring Parent before Philly got him back from Toronto --- or why they chose Gilbert over someone like Rogie Vachon who was only 27 years old in 1973.


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02-15-2012, 05:45 PM
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Big Phil
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Agreed. Boston had a slight talent edge, Flyers had a huge coaching advantage.

For all the complaining about Burns not being in the HHoF, Shero is an even bigger omission.
I am one of those people who praises the forgotten talent of the Flyers but I will say that there was a clear advantage in offensive talent for the Bruins. They had the 4 top scorers in the NHL in 1974. This isn't to say the gap wasn't narrowed with the advantages in coaching in goaltending for the Flyers, but that Bruins offense was a machine.

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02-15-2012, 08:16 PM
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I blame it all on Dallas Smith.

Why?

Because of his combover.

Seriously, though... Chicago was the only team they should have beaten. The other series were saw-offs.

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02-15-2012, 09:08 PM
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I am one of those people who praises the forgotten talent of the Flyers but I will say that there was a clear advantage in offensive talent for the Bruins. They had the 4 top scorers in the NHL in 1974. This isn't to say the gap wasn't narrowed with the advantages in coaching in goaltending for the Flyers, but that Bruins offense was a machine.
Different styles.

Bruins scored 76 more goals than the Flyers that year, but gave up 57 more.

Orr and Espo were the two best offensive players in the league, but Clarke and MacLeish were both better offensively than either Hodge or Cashman, no matter their point totals that year.

If you drafted the players at the time for that playoff series I think it would have gone:

Orr
Parent
Clarke/Espo
MacLeish
Hodge
Cashman
Bucyk
Barber
Lonsberry

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03-31-2012, 03:28 AM
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I will say one other thing for 1970-71: If the playoff format allowed them to play fourth-place Toronto instead of third-place Montreal, things would have been mighty interesting.

Suppose that happens, Montreal loses to the Rangers. Does Boston still beat a stacked Rangers team, and possibly a loaded Chicago team in the Cup Finals?

Or does Giacomin/Tony Esposito do to them what Dryden did?

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03-31-2012, 01:44 PM
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Shinsuke Nakamura
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I wouldn't say they underachieved, they just had Montreal to deal with most of the time during that stretch.

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03-31-2012, 04:47 PM
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I will say one other thing for 1970-71: If the playoff format allowed them to play fourth-place Toronto instead of third-place Montreal, things would have been mighty interesting.

Suppose that happens, Montreal loses to the Rangers. Does Boston still beat a stacked Rangers team, and possibly a loaded Chicago team in the Cup Finals?

Or does Giacomin/Tony Esposito do to them what Dryden did?
Very interesting question. I have often thought that if New York had won Game 7 in Chicago then they would have defeated Montreal in the 71 finals. The Rangers of that era had more success than any other team versus Dryden as like the Soviets (who usually made Dryden look rather silly) they moved the puck quick and got goalies moving back and forth. Dryden was great against teams that came right at him such as Boston, and Chicago. He really struggled against teams that had quick lateral motion.

Craig

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04-06-2012, 09:19 AM
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I definately think they under-achieved. Perhaps a lack of concentration and drive? There's a story that I've heard about an optional morning skate during the 1974 Finals. A handful of Bruins come to the rink, but the entire Flyers squad shows up. Tom Brady once asked a coach at Michigan what his favorite Big 10 Championship ring is. The coach replied, "the NEXT one." I just don't get that vibe from the Big Bad Bruins of the '70's. VERY talanted, but maybe lacking in discipline, drive, and desire. They OWNED the city and were having too much fun. Maybe "focus" on the game was an afterthought?

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