Friday, May 24 marks the 27th anniversary of the Canadiens’ 1986 Stanley Cup victory when they defeated the Calgary Flames 4-3 to win the final series in five games.
Rookie goalie Patrick Roy, at age 20, became the youngest player ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Habs won the 23rd Cup in franchise history.
“A bonus,” Roy told reporters after the game. “It’s nothing more than that.”
“You could take a whole bunch of names on this team, throw them into a hat, pick out one, and he’d be just as worthy of the Smythe Trophy as I was. Maybe more.
“We all know that the Stanley Cup is a team award,” Roy added. “The Smythe is no different. Right now, I’m sitting here in the dressing room and watching all of the other guys on the team and I’ll bet I can pick out a lot of them who could have his name on this trophy.”
Roy, who had 23-18-3 record with a 3.45 goals-against average in 47 regular-season games, went 15-5 in the playoffs with a 1.92 GAA.
To see the 1985-86 Habs roster and photos, click here.
Below is the story that appeared in The Gazette following the Canadiens’ 23rd Stanley Cup championship:
(Photo by Dave Sidaway/The Gazette)
Les Canadiens sont la – again!
GAZETTE SPORTS EDITOR
Coach Jean Perron says his 1986 Stanley Cup champions are the best defensive team in Canadiens history.
“We won the Stanley Cup without snipers,” he said in the wild, noisy moments after the Canadiens had won their 23rd Stanley Cup with a tight-collar 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames.
“When you don’t have great goal-scorers, you’ve got to be great defensively. When we hang up that banner in the Forum, it will be screaming ‘defence . . . defence’.
“I really believe this is the best defensive team in Canadiens history. We were great defensively all through the playoffs – except in the last few minutes of this game. Now that it’s over, I can live with that.”
For starters, the name is Patrick Roy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs to go along with his Stanley Cup.
One reason Roy has that trophy is the stop he made with 14 seconds remaining in the game after the Flames had rallied furiously and bravely for two goals with time running out.
“Patrick Roy,” Canadiens defenceman Chris Chelios was to mention, “made the biggest play of his life.”
What Chelios was trying to say above the terrible din in the winners’ locker room was that Roy’s save was the stop of the season in a game the Canadiens seemed about to win handily – before they almost lost it.
A little beyond the halfway mark of the third period, the Canadiens were congratulating each other on the bench with a 4-1 lead. Gaston Gingras had scored on a power play in the first period, Brian Skrudland had provided the Canadiens with a 2-1 lead midway through the second, and goals by Rick Green and Bobby Smith within 19 seconds in the third period appeared to have left the Flames dead in the water.
Steve Bozek, who had scored the first Calgary goal in the second period, scored again at the 16.46 mark of the final period. Then Joe Mullen scored with 46 seconds remaining in the game – with Calgary’s Mike Vernon out of the net.
Now time was running out in Game 5 and the series, and well, listen to 20-year-old Roy:
“The Flames were all around the net, and I had made the first save on Mullen, but the rebound went to (Jamie) Macoun, who was right beside me. I made the split and got my pad on his shot and then covered the puck with my glove.
“I was really lucky on that play, but you make your own luck, eh?”
“I was going nuts,” said Chelios. “We panicked a little at the end, but right now I don’t care about anything because we won.
“Roy,” he muttered, “Patrick Roy. Whew!”
The series, won by the Canadiens with four consecutive victories after they lost the opening game of the best-of-seven round 5-2, clearly belonged to the rookie goaltender. It also belonged to other young bloods such as Claude Lemieux, whose 10 goals in the playoffs included four game-winners. But more than anything, it may have belonged to some of the fine, old wine associated with the team.
“You can talk all you want about rookies and the job they did,” said Bobby Smith, “but where would we have been without two of the best leaders I’ve ever seen – Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson?
“Here are two guys who never let any of us play anything less than our best. I’d watch those two line up during the national anthem, and I’d promise myself to play the best I possibly could.”
Smith’s views were echoed by coach Perron.
“I don’t think we’d be anywhere without the leadership of Gainey and Robinson. I can’t begin to tell you how great they were. You can’t get anywhere unless you get leadership like that. It’s what you need desperately when you have so many youngsters on your team.”
Not surprisingly, Gainey and Robinson represent defence at its finest – a quality coach Perron has been stressing from the start of the playoffs.
What, then, happened in the final few minutes when the Flames came within a hair of sending the game into overtime?
“Remember the timeout I called?” asked Perron. “I told the players on our bench what I wanted them to do. We were ahead by two goals and there wasn’t much more than a minute left. I felt we were in good shape.”
Thirty seconds after the Canadiens’ timeout, Mullen beat Roy with a short shot from the slot.
Thirty-seconds later . . . Patrick Roy! Whew!
“I wasn’t on the ice when Roy made that save,” grinned Smith. “When he made it, I was on my feet yelling: ‘Roo-ah! Roo-ah!’ This smile, is going to stay on my face until next September.”
“What a thrill,” exulted Canadiens president Ronald Corey. “I nearly died at the end. I was behind the bench when it was 4-2, and when they scored their third goal, I just ran out of there. When I saw the stop Roy made with 14 seconds left, my heart almost stopped.
“If they had tied the game, it could have been the series. Who knows? But now that it’s over, I can’t be happier. There are a lot of people to thank on this team. “I also have to thank Irving (former general manager Irving Grundman) and Ron Caron. They were responsible for a lot of those players being on this team.”
One is defenceman Green, acquired by Grundman in a controversial deal which sent Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Craig Laughlin and Doug Jarvis to the Washington Capitals for Green and Ryan Walter.
Green’s spectacular goal midway through the third period came after he out-foxed Mullen abut 10 feet inside the Calgary blueline. From there, he beat Vernon with a rising shot, which provided the Canadiens with a 3-1 margin.
Only 19 seconds later, and before the Flames had recovered from the Green goal, Smith beat Vernon from the same area. As it developed, as much as the Canadiens welcomed the Green goal, they needed Smith’s to win the game and the series.
“We needed a lot of things to go our way if we were going to win,” said Mats Naslund. “Everybody knows we had a lot of problems during the regular season, and while we were having those problems, anybody who said we’d win the Stanley Cup had to be out of his mind.
“There were a lot of things wrong with us. Goaltending was one of them, and there were a lot of little things. But when things started to fall into place, we felt we had a chance. We had the feeling we could beat the teams we faced, and this,” he said with a wave of his hand at the celebrations taking place around him, “is the payoff.”
It is quite a payoff.