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Stanley Cup Final

Bruins-Blues Stanley Cup Final in 1970 was more than iconic Orr goal

Defenseman's series winner in OT overshadowed other key moments of Boston sweep

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues played 240 minutes and 40 seconds of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey in the first 10 days of May 1970. Believe it or not, 240:39 of it was pretty good before Bobby Orr famously took joyful flight in the 40th second of overtime in Game 4.

It was "The Goal," Orr's dramatic clincher that soon became a proper noun and would be crafted into a commemorative statue, that defines the 1970 Stanley Cup Final. It completed the Bruins' sweep of the Blues, who were in their third season since joining the NHL in the 1967 expansion, giving Boston its first championship since 1941.

But there were many other compelling moments in that series between the Bruins and Blues. Forty-nine years later, we're about to see whether Boston can run its Stanley Cup Final winning streak against St. Louis to five in Game 1 at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS).

Of course, Orr's goal is the everlasting image of the 1970 series, a Derek Sanderson pass poked behind Blues goalie Glenn Hall that touched off a wild Boston Garden celebration that spilled out into the streets.

Orr had pinched in from the blue line, where he intercepted a clearing attempt by Blues forward Larry Keenan and fed Sanderson behind the net. He bolted to the slot, taking Sanderson's return pass to win the game and sail into Bruins immortality, helped into flight when tripped an instant too late by Blues defenseman Noel Picard.

Video: Memories: Orr scores in overtime to win Stanley Cup

The moment was captured by photographer Ray Lussier, whose iconic image is among the most famous in sports history.

"Did you see the way (Orr) gambled to start that play?" Sanderson asked, quoted in Eric Zweig's 2010 book "Twenty Greatest Hockey Goals."

"No other defenseman would have risked so much in an overtime game. But for Orr, with his natural talent and great anticipation, it was no gamble."

Hall, then in the 17th of his 18-season career, has often joked that he was "out of the shower and dried off before Bobby hit the ice." From that day, the Hall of Fame goalie has embraced his role in this indelible playoff moment, not for a heartbeat haunted by a puck that got past him.

"Absolutely, I knew where Bobby was on the ice," Hall told NHL.com in a 2017 interview, ranking Orr in a tie with Gordie Howe as the greatest player in NHL history. "I'll tell you, if you were a goalkeeper and you didn't know where Bobby Orr was on the ice, you weren't paying attention. He was the whole focus."

Video: 1970: Bobby Orr first blueliner with 100-point season

Orr's goal unfairly casts four good hockey games in deep shadows, the series having begun with great drama.

The Blues again represented the NHL's West Division in the Final, the six teams of 1967 expansion grouped against the Original Six teams in the East. In 1968 and 1969, St. Louis was swept by the Montreal Canadiens, pushing its opponent to overtime twice in 1968.

Speaking 49 years after the fact, Scotty Bowman told NHL.com this week he considers 1970, "the toughest Final of the three. 

"We couldn't handle Boston's scoring," said Bowman, whose illustrious career began with the Blues 17 games into the 1967-68 season, replacing Lynn Patrick.

The Blues had home-ice advantage in 1970, having won their division 22 points clear of the Pittsburgh Penguins (86-64), with Boston finishing second in the East, tied with the Chicago Black Hawks with 99 points but ranked second based on wins (45-40).

Bruins' Derek Sanderson (left) and Ed Westfall in a happy locker room after Boston's Game 2 victory.

 

But the Bruins were in high gear come the Final, having swept Chicago in the semifinals. Hitting his prime, Orr had won the Art Ross Trophy as the regular-season point-scoring champion with 120 (33 goals, 87 assists); teammate Phil Esposito ranked second in the NHL with 99 (43 goals, 56 assists), a gaggle of teammates also serious offensive threats.

"In Game 1, we tried to shadow Bobby Orr, who could outskate everybody," Bowman said with a laugh. "That was OK, except we couldn't handle the other guys."

 

Boston Bruins coach Harry Sinden

 

Game 1, St. Louis, May 3: Bruins 6, Blues 1

Home-ice advantage meant nothing to the Blues, Bruins' Johnny Bucyk scoring a hat trick to pace Boston's 6-1 victory in the opener at St. Louis Arena.

The Sunday matinée was delayed for 15 minutes in the second period by a frightening injury sustained by veteran Blues goalie Jacques Plante, 41, who was struck in the head by a deflected shot off the stick of Bruins center Fred Stanfield.

Plante was knocked unconscious by the shot, one that "didn't explode the mask, but cracked it," according to Bowman.

Jacques Plante (left), injured in Game 1 when struck in the face by a shot, was replaced that afternoon and in Game 2 by rookie Ernie Wakely (right).

 

Plante waved off a stretcher, which had been pushed to his goal crease, finally wobbling from the rink before being taken to hospital for X-rays and an examination that diagnosed a concussion.

"We got a big break when Plante was hurt," Bruins coach Harry Sinden said after Game 1.

Rookie backup Ernie Wakely came in at 3:57 of the second, the game tied 1-1. But the Bruins scored five unanswered goals to the disappointment of a crowd of 16,715. 

The Blues also lost defenseman Barclay Plager, who passed out on the bench in the third period with a rib injury.

"The doctor didn't exactly call it a fracture, he seems to think it was a separation," Plager said the next day. "He said he hasn't seen anything like it before and he's going to write a paper on it."

 

St. Louis Blues defenseman Bob Plager

 

Game 2, St. Louis, May 5: Bruins 6, Blues 2

Orr had one assist in Game 1 but he was a preoccupation for the Blues all afternoon, Jim Roberts assigned to shadow the Bruins superstar. In a checking role, Roberts could do little to offensively support linemates Terry Crisp and Tim Ecclestone. 

But if Bowman was delighted by Roberts' work, the coach's claim of its effectiveness was sniffed at by Orr.

"I could have had lunch out there," Orr said in reply to Bowman. "No bother at all."

Blues' Jim Roberts (center) was given the unenviable task of trying to shadow Bruins great Bobby Orr (left).

 

Before Game 2, Bowman showed reporters videotape of how he proposed Roberts would continue to try to cloak Orr -- imagine a video session like that today.

With Plante sidelined, Bowman again turned to Wakely, who had played 30 regular-season games, 12 more than Hall and two fewer than Plante.

The Bruins led 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 after two en route to a 6-2 victory, Ed Westfall and Sanderson scoring two each.

"We just haven't got it, let's face it," Bowman said bluntly after Game 2. "[The Bruins] were playing soundly and we're not checking very well. … I'm a realist. If we play better and Boston doesn't play as well, we can make it close."

 

Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers

 

Game 3, Boston, May 7: Bruins 4, Blues 1

In Boston, Wayne Cashman scored twice to push the Bruins to within one victory of the Stanley Cup with a 4-1 win, their ninth straight in the playoffs. Hall kept the score respectable, Boston outshooting the visitors 46-21.

"We all thought it would be a contest," Phil Esposito said heading into Game 4. "I'm not taking anything away from the Blues, but I guess it's just that we're too good a hockey club. The way we're playing, no team in the NHL could handle us."

Glenn Hall at home in Stony Plain, Alberta on May 22, and during his St. Louis playing days.

 

At least one newspaper agreed, predicting Game 4 with a Saturday-edition headline, "Good grief! It ends Sunday," the story pointing out that Boston Mayor Kevin White had scheduled a victory parade for Monday morning and already had a civic trophy inscribed "Stanley Cup Champions."

 

St. Louis Blues forward Phil Goyette

 

Game 4, Boston, May 10: Bruins 4, Blues 3 (OT)

"The Goal."

The Blues gave it their best shot, holding 2-1 and 3-2 leads before Bucyk tied the game 3-3 at 13:28 of the third period, setting the stage for Orr's overtime winner. His ninth goal and 20th point in the 1970 playoffs were both NHL records for a defenseman.

The afternoon's hero was greeted postgame in the Bruins locker room by his father, Doug, who had travelled from Parry Sound, Ontario to witness history with Arva, his wife and the defenseman's mother. 

"This is what I've been after all season," Bobby Orr would say.

Johnny Bucyk, who scored a Game 1 hat trick, accepts the Stanley Cup from NHL President Clarence Campbell.

 

A few days earlier having been celebrated as winner of the Art Ross for most regular-season points, Norris as best defenseman and Hart as most valuable player, Orr would add the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. He had five points (one goal, four assists), with 19 shots on goal and a plus-10 rating in the Final. In 14 postseason games, he had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists), 78 shots and was plus-24.

"The Stanley Cup is the only trophy I ever wanted," he said. "I never even thought about these individual awards."

 

Postscript:

Each member of the Bruins received a Stanley Cup winner's share of $3,000, the Blues paid $1,500 each. Four individual awards earned Orr a total of $5,500 in bonuses.

"This is the happiest day of my life," he said upon being presented the Conn Smythe the day after Game 4. "We have a [heck] of a team and I just hope we can do it again next year."

Following the Bruins' parade in Boston, Orr went back home to Parry Sound and was celebrated there in July.

Bobby Orr waves during a parade in his hometown of Parry Sound, Ontario, on July 4, 1970, goalie Eddie Johnston riding alongside.

 

Boston was upset by the Canadiens in the First Round in 1971. The Bruins bounced back to win the Cup in 1972; they didn't win it again until 2011.

For years, Orr and Hall would together and independently autograph thousands of prints of Lussier's photo.

"Poor Glenn must have got sick of that pretty quickly but he took it in good humor," Orr wrote in "Orr: My Story," his 2013 autobiography. "I can remember at one event, he looked over at me and, shaking his head in mock disgust, he asked, 'Bobby, is that the only goal you ever scored in the NHL?' "

Orr is expected to be on hand Monday when the 2019 Stanley Cup Final begins, Hall watching from his farmhouse in Stony Plain, Alberta. Alumni from both teams will be at TD Garden in Boston and Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Scotty Bowman at home in Buffalo on May 22 with a painting of Orr's iconic Stanley Cup-winning goal.

 

This week, a legendary goalie and an iconic coach remembered their Blues roots. Hall tugged on a St. Louis jersey at home for a photo, and Bowman dug into his Buffalo basement and had his wife, Suella, photograph him with a still-wrapped painting of Orr's 1970 winner, a 2011 gift from a friend to celebrate Bowman's induction in the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.

The winningest coach in history would finally snap his 0-12 final-round record on April 29, 1973, his Canadiens defeating the Black Hawks 8-3 in Game 1 on their way to a six-game championship victory. That would be Bowman's first of an NHL-record nine titles won as a coach with Montreal, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, the first of his 14 including various front-office positions.

Hall's allegiance now is clear, Mr. Goalie having ended his storied career in St. Louis. Orr, of course, still bleeds Boston's black and gold.

Bobby Orr enjoys a moment with the Stanley Cup in the Bruins locker room.

 

Despite his St. Louis roots, Bowman's loyalties are a bit divided.

"When I was a young kid growing up in (Montreal-district) Verdun, I'd listen to Bruins broadcasts of their great teams of the late 1930s and early 1940s," he recalled. "My favorite NHL player was Boston forward Bill Cowley, No. 10. My mother got me his sweater. In Montreal, you'd see only Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leaf jerseys. I ended up with Boston's.

"My wife is from southern Illinois -- she was a nurse in St. Louis when we meet -- and I have good friends today in both the Bruins and Blues organizations. It was tough for St. Louis fans in 1970 because we'd just lost two Final series against Montreal. 

"My one regret is that we couldn't get it done, the Bruins beating us twice at home that year. If St. Louis wins now, good for a team and their fans who have suffered for 50 years."

Photos: Hockey Hall of Fame; Getty Images; Glenn Hall; Scotty Bowman

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