Scotty Bowman was named coach of the year today and Saturday night in Boston Garden, his Montreal Canadiens are expected to be crowned team of the year.
A four-game sweep of the Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins seemed unlikely a week ago, but three victories by a combined score of 14-5 have convinced even the Bruins that they are overmatched.
"It's tough to beat a team that has more talent," said Bobby Schmautz of the Bruins.
"Good players? They have great players," said Boston's Terry O'Reilly. "I can't see a weakness in the Canadiens."
So why should the coach of such a super team be picked by the broadcasters as coach of the year over Washington's Tom McVie or Minnesota's Ted Harris, two guys who lifted anemic franchises to respectability? Well, no team ever compiled a 60-victory, 8-defeat season before, and a lot of teams with staggering talent have just plain staggered.
It would seem McVie deserved a closer race, after the Capitals more than doubled their victory total of a year ago. He placed second with 41 points, six more than harris, but out of sight of Bowman's winning figure of 102.
"I don't think any team will ever lose as few as eight again," Bowman surmised today, as the teams attended an awards luncheon that also honored the New York Islanders' Ed Westfall as winner of the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"The team this year has come to games and practices with a lot of desire; that's what it's all about," Bowman continued. "We have one big advantage in Montreal, having so few (two) players who have come from other teams. There's none of this business about 'we did it this way here and that way there'".
Bowman scheduled an optional pactice after the luncheon, but the way his players were eating, it was obvious few had opted for additional work. The Canadiens, after 10 exhibitions, 80 regular-season games and 13 play-off contests, want to hit the ice only one more time.
The officiating in their series has been a subject of some controversy and there were some light references to the subject.
Bowman, in his acceptance speech, said "Don Cherry (the Boston coach) says I ought to be honest and thank the referees for our home record (33-1-6). So I'll think the referees to start with."
Harry Sinden, the Bruins' general manager, noticed the presence of Bruce Hood, Saturday's referee, and said, "I would like to extend a special welcome to someone I've admired for a long time, the man who will be refereeing tomorrow night, Bruce 'You've Got Two' Hood," and Sinden made a tripping signal with hand across leg.
Sinden thanked the players of both teams for attending the luncheon, which most have ignored in the past. Then he added, "I regret, however, that one of them showed up last night."
Guy Lafleur, as usual, smiled politely. Thursday night, after listening to 48 hours of threats from feisty Bruins, Lafleur went out and scored two goals and two assists in Montreal's 4-2 victory. He was so domnant and so flashy that it could perhaps have been the greatest performance of his six-year pro career. He left the Bruins shaking their heads.
Amid all the talk of four straight, captain Wayne Cashman sounded a warning. "Montreal hasn't got the cup yet. You only get that by winning four games, and they haven't got the fourth one yet. "I guarantee there will be 22 guys ready to play hockey Saturday night."
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they can only dress 19 and play six at a time. Thursday, a penalty for icing seven set up the first Montreal goal. That tactic discredited, there seems nothing left.
Tonight's fourth Stanley Cup hockey game between Montreal and Boston will be shown on a delayed basis at 2 a.m. on WDCA-TV-20.