MONTREAL – Throughout his illustrious career, Patrick Roy never really made a habit of looking behind him. His reason? There was rarely anything to see.
Recognized as one of the greatest clutch performers in the history of professional sports, Roy was in a league of his own when a postseason game went into overtime. When the red light went off in a sudden death situation, it almost invariably happened 200 feet from his net.
In his first playoff appearance with the Canadiens in 1986, a 20-year-old Roy solidified his status among the league’s elite goaltenders, posting three overtime wins and hoisting the Stanley Cup that spring.
Roy’s breakthrough performance came on May 5, 1986 in Game 3 of the conference finals at Madison Square Garden. With the teams tied 3-3 after 60 minutes of play, No. 33 stopped all 13 shots the Rangers threw his way in overtime. Roy fended off the attack long enough for fellow Canadiens rookie Claude Lemieux to seal the deal for the visiting team, beating John Vanbiesbrouck with the team’s first shot in the extra frame.
“I’m not sure whether or not that game actually put me on the map, but it definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” admitted Roy. “It seemed like after that overtime game, it was impossible to score against me. At least that’s how I was feeling at the time. From that point on, I knew that I could really be the difference-maker in a game.”
He definitely made a difference during his 12-year career with the Canadiens. In his 114 postseason games with the Habs, 29 required overtime to determine a winner. His record: 23 wins and just six losses. For those of you who don’t have a calculator handy, that amounts to a staggering .793 win percentage.
“To be honest, when a game would go into overtime, it became easier to concentrate,” explained Roy. “All I would concentrate on was the next save. The only thing you can do as a goalie in that situation is buy your teammates a little more time. I never scored any goals. They were the ones who found a way to put the puck in the net.”
With a new hero emerging every game, the Canadiens’ playoff performance in 1993 will be forever engrained in the minds of Habs fans everywhere. That spring, Jacques Demers’ squad posted an incredible 10 overtime victories, an all-time record. In addition to his stellar play, Roy also made headlines when the confident netminder shot a wink at Los Angeles Kings forward Tomas Sandstrom in Game 3 of the Finals. The rest, as they say, is history.
“My approach was simple: make the saves and buy some time with the hope that my team was going to score before the other team,” emphasized Roy. “I was lucky that I usually came out on the winning side.”