This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup championship.
The Canadiens lost Game 1 of the Cup final 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings on June 1, 1993, and were preparing for Game 2 after Wayne Gretzky had a goal and three assists in the opener.
Below are the columns by Michael Farber and Red Fisher that were published in The Gazette as the Canadiens and Kings prepared for Game 2 on June 3, 1993 at the Forum.
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)
Captain Carbo seeks responsibility of Gretzky
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 3, 1993
Carbo wants 99.
If the Stanley Cup final really were the World Wrestling Federation on blades as some ESPN watchers think it is, Guy Carbonneau would have screamed that at 7:30 tonight at the legendary Montreal Forum, he was going to rip the cape off Superman’s back. But Captain Carbo’s game is based on nuance, subtlety, and sometimes you must read between the lines when he speaks publicly. Carbonneau read between the lines in Game 1, saw Wayne Gretzky frolic in a demilitarized zone, and reached the conclusion that his line is best equipped to deal with His Greatness. Yesterday he passed on his give-me-Gretzky plea to coach Jacques Demers, who replied, “I’ll think about it.”
How often has Demers said no to you?
“I haven’t counted,” Carbonneau said.
If Demers were any more open to suggestions, he would take hand votes among his veterans. But he is unquestionably the boss. In a city where hockey is a religion, the gargoyles don’t run the cathedral.
But Carbonneau is the Canadiens’ wise man, the coach-without- portfolio. Kirk Muller has called him the smartest player he has ever seen. Demers trusts his judgment. “I say what I think about different players,” Carbonneau said. “I’ve been around 11 years and I know the players and I know the reaction to hockey in Montreal as well as anyone.”
While Carbo is first team All-Yap on the ice, he is less scattershot with his words in the dressing room. His opinions carry extraordinary weight, which already makes him a kind of Montreal shadow of the man he wants to cover tonight in Game 2.
Demers reported the Gretzky breakdown in Game 1 (courtesy of CBC stopwatches) was this: at even-strength, Muller was matched against Gretzky for 11 minutes, Carbo had him four and change and Stephan Lebeau took him for two. (Since Lebeau changed the names of his cats from Wayne and Janet to Savvy and Mona in honor of Denis Savard and bride, it’s no longer a conflict of interest when he and Gretzky are on the ice together.) Gretzky had two assists on the power play and scored into an empty net to account for three of his four points but always made Montreal queasy straight up.
Demers said Gretzky toyed with his team, and Muller is nobody’s boy toy. For the past six weeks Muller has played Joe Sakic, Pat LaFontaine and Pierre Turgeon, and their whereabouts are unknown. Carbonneau adores Muller, and is amazed that neither he nor right- winger Mike Keane were nominated for a Selke.
But Gretzky is different. Gretzky is Gretzky. And Muller must think about the other end of the ice because no one expects His Greatness to keep carrying the Montreal offence.
“If Carbo feels that way – and he’s a pretty smart player – then it’s probably worth considering,” said Muller, who bears as strong a physical resemblance to No. 99 as Carbonneau has to Gretzky in terms of influence on a team. “He’s more a defensive player, and our line has to score. No matter what happens tonight, when the puck is turned over and we get it, we have to jump on offence. We have to play our game, use our assets. We were worried to much about them. About Wayne. I admit I do have a tendency to get a little more cautious when he’s out there.”
As summer drew uncomfortably close after the disastrous Game 2 in Quebec, Patrick Roy gave a fire-and-brimstone speech – seconded by the captain – about how the team had afforded the skilled Nordiques too much respect. Worry about us, the goalie ordered, not about them. The Kings are similar to Quebec in the way they skate and forecheck, and after losing the opener to Los Angeles, the orators were at it again.
Carbonneau and Roy didn’t wait until after tonight because the Kings are twice as good as Quebec, and the final is twice as important.
“I’m like Jacques Demers,” Carbonneau said of his speechifying Tuesday night. “I talk with my heart. Sometimes I’m not kind. If I have a message to deliver, I don’t (mince) words. When I have something to say to the guys, I say it.”
Carbonneau was genuinely angry over what he considered a lack of effort, seething at first and but soon thinking. He saw how many times the Canadiens No. 11 went into 99, knew Montreal had to free Muller for more creative work and remembered times when the Canadiens had slowed Gretzky by assigning a full-time shadow. Then he stuck his hand up.
Take me. I volunteer.
This is not ego. It is leadership. Carbonneau doesn’t want credit, he wants responsibility. He is saying give me Gretzky, give me minutes with the best player in the world and we’ll see. I’ll take the biggest guy in the room. Carbonneau is sticking his neck out knowing Gretzky can do some cross-border chopping, but he has had a fine playoff by a more modest standard. This has not been Carbo’s year. He is 33. Chronic tendinitis in his left knee makes him walk with a slight limp. He didn’t score against a goalie after Nov. 9 during the regular season, but he has had two playoff game winners in overtime.
What does Gretzky bring out in you?
“The best, I hope.”
Like the playoffs.
The idea is intriguing. Captain vs. captain. Class vs. class. Smarts on smarts. The best offensive player (a page of NHL records) against the top defensive player (three Selke Trophies) of their eras. Physically Carbonneau can’t stay with 99 forever, but this is temporary work. Two weeks, tops. If the Canadiens aren’t careful, it could be sooner.
So Carbo wants 99. He is saying pretty please. If Doug Gilmour in Toronto couldn’t burn both ends of the candle successfully against Gretzky for seven games, maybe Muller can’t either. Carbo wants the chance.
This gargoyle deserves it.
Time to get back on track: Demers
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JUNE 3, 1993
It seems that Canadiens coach Jacques Demers had this idea of having a chat with his players to discuss what went wrong in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final with the Los Angeles Kings.
Nothing serious, he was saying. Hey, it’s only one game. Nothing prolonged, even though the Canadiens fell 4-1 at home for the first time in the playoffs in a game that wasn’t that close.
“I don’t want to talk to them about what the Kings did right,” said Demers yesterday. “All I want to do is talk about the things we did wrong. I’m looking at 15 minutes, that’s all.”
Good idea, Jocko, but if the kindly ol’ coach was able to cover that subject in only 15 minutes, he must have been shooting from the lip.
Did he tell them, hey, we’re far haven’t lost a series. All we’ve done is lose a game.
Or: “We haven’t won anything yet, but we haven’t lost anything, either.”
Did he point out to several of his young bloods that they had taken bad penalties?
Or: “Listen, chaps, this team will win only when it plays as a team.”
Did he point his purple forefinger at his young players and tell them uh-uh, this is the Stanley Cup and all these people with microphones and cameras and notepads are paying a visit because that’s what they do for the few bucks they make. Don’t get caught up in people telling you how great you are. Trust me, these media guys, and especially the ladies are, after all, just like human beings.
What he surely told them during what was supposed to be merely a 15-minute sermon was:
“Let’s play the way the Montreal Canadiens played to get to the finals, okay? We concentrated too much on the Kings. The most important thing to worry about is how we played throughout the playoffs.
“Remember, guys, it was the same in our first series. Remember how worried we were about how the Nordiques played? We worried about it for the first two games, and lost both. Then we started to worry about how we played and we won 1l straight. Okay, so seven were in overtime. Who’s counting?
“They know what went wrong,” said Demers yesterday before going into his meeting with the players. “We all believe in ourselves. We have some solid people here.”
“I think it’s all a matter of playing more collectively,” said Demers. “We don’t want to take anything away from the Kings. They played a heck of a hockey game last night. Nobody’s down, though, and I’m not gonna let anybody get down. Nobody lets anybody get down on this team. That’s the secret of our hockey club.”
The Canadiens were a secret, as a team, during most of Tuesday’s opener, but Demers is certain there’ll be a sharp improvement tonight if only because Mike Keane, who missed the opener with what Team Clinic described as back spasms, is due back in the lineup.
Keane, of course, says he wants to play. Keane also says he thinks he can play.”
“What I don’t want to do is hurt the team,” said Keane.
“We missed Keane a lot in the first game,” said Demers. “He hasn’t scored 40 goals in a season, but he plays like someone who scores 40 goals.”
There were fears that Benoit Brunet, who was among the best of the Canadiens forwards, would miss tonight’s game after leaving late in Game 1 with a bruised knee. He’s playing. So is Denis Savard.
Kevin Haller, who was part of Team Benched in Game 1, plays tonight, which means Sean Hill doesn’t.
Nothing personal, but after being overwhelmed by Team Whoosh! in Game 1, Demers suspects he could use defenceman Haller’s speed. He can also be a plus on a power play which, in the Canadiens’ last 26 opportunities, has been a runaway minus. Oh, oh for 26 is not what Demers had in mind in these playoffs, particularly against an explosive team such as the Kings.
“I’m not nervous about our power play,” said Demers which, of course, means he’s nervous about his power play. “We’d like to have a better power play. We will have a better one. (Promises! Promises!) There are teams with a 33 percent success rate on the power play who have been playing golf for six weeks,” said Demers.
Guy Carbonneau calls Tuesday’s opener the Canadiens’ worst in the playoffs. He’d like to remedy it by taking on a fellow named Gretzky – defensively, that is. Gretzky brought some of his magic to the opener by scoring twice and assisting on three in the 4-1 game – but one of the goals was into his own *net.
Captain Carbo didn’t see much of Gretzky in the game – only four minutes, by Demers’s estimate. Kirk Muller didn’t see much of him, either, even though he was on the ice against Gretzky for roughly 11 minutes.
What Carbonneau would like to do tonight is log a lot more ice time against Gretzky and, in the process, free Muller for offensive duty.
“I just want to play a bit more against Gretzky and I’ll tell Jacques that,” Carbonneau said yesterday. “Checking the league’s top players has been my life.”