For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page).
This is part six – 1986
David Desharnais was born in 1986. Time marches on.
Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, both well past their prime, called the 1986 Stanley Cup win the sweetest of all their championships. It was a team without snipers, a team full of hard-working grinders, and a team oozing heart and soul. And with Robinson and Gainey’s leadership, grinders grinding, and Patrick Roy in goal, the Canadiens took out the Calgary Flames in five games and Cup number 23 was in the books.
Patrick Roy was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner, a feat he would repeat again in 1993, and talk in the dressing room afterward was about the stop Roy made with just 14 seconds left, a stop that ended a Flames rally in dramatic fashion. In fact, the Habs almost blew it and who knows what would have happened in the series if Calgary ended up winning a game that was in the bag for the home team.
Montreal was leading 4-1 midway throught the third period and they were beginning to lick their lips at the thought of drinking from the Cup. But the Flames had other ideas. They made it 4-2, then 4-3 with Mike Vernon pulled for an extra attacker. Smiles and backslapping stopped on the Montreal bench. The Forum grew nervous. And then the Roy stop happened.
Here’s Roy explaining the play. “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 the shot and then covered the puck with my glove. I was really lucky on that play, but you make your own luck, right?”
“Roy” muttered Chris Chelios. “Patrick Roy. Whew!”
Young Claude Lemieux scored ten goals in these playoffs, including four game-winners. Ryan Walter played with a half-healed broken ankle. Rookie Brian Skrudland, who had his jaw broken early in the game by Calgary’s Nick Fotiu, never missed a shift, and scored Montreal’s second goal.
Skrudland also notched the game winner in game two in the shortest overtime ever…just nine seconds in.
Linemate Mike McPhee, who became a household name in these playoffs, said of Skrudland, “He showed me what I could do when I saw him, at 175 pounds, playing like a 205-pounder every shift.”
Guy Carbonneau, called “the defensive Gretzky,” continued on even with a serious knee injury. Craig Ludwig played with a back so bad he had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Claude Lemieux, a favourite target of the opposition, played like he was possessed. “I like it fine when everybody’s after me…I am an inspiration to every player in the AHL.”
Chris Nilan couldn’t suit up for the last two games because of a damaged ankle, was bittersweet in the room during the celebrations. “I wanted to be wearing the colours,” he told reporters. “I’m glad it gave (Steve) Rooney and (Serge) Boisvert the chance to get their names on the Cup. They deserved it because they worked like hell and never opened their mouths.”
Rick Green, a whipping boy to the public was he came over from Washington with Ryan Walter in the unpopular trade that sent Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin packing, was considered the best defenceman of all in the ’86 playoffs. And Gaston Gingras finally showed he was a bonafide NHLer by having a fine series and scoring three big goals.
Montreal had reached the final against Calgary by first taking out the Boston Bruins in three games (a best of five), then Hartford in seven games, and finally the Rangers in five.
And the last word goes to Mats Naslund. “We needed a lot of things to go our way if we were going to win. We had a lot of problems during the regular season, and while we were having them those problems, anybody who said we’d win the Stanley Cup had to be out of his mind. 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 around him, “is the payoff.”