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Last night’s 6-5 game a bit like the 1973 finals, Game 5- when Chicago beat Montreal 8-7

I can’t honestly say I was expecting the score we saw in Game 1 last night, but both teams came out rested and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. There’s a lot of offensive talent on both sides of the puck and both hot goalies had a lot of time to cool off during the long delay before the first game of the series.

I couldn’t help but think of the second-last time the Black Hawks were in the finals. (The previous time was the Mike Keenan-coached squad in the early ‘90s, when they were swept by the powerful Mario/Jagr Penguins.)

Back in May of 1973, Montreal was cruising through the playoffs but ran into a surprisingly resilient Chicago side. I particularly remember how good Pit Martin was for the Hawks in that series. The smallish center was tremendous, and helped push the Habs to 6 games. I was happy for Martin, because Boston always received credit for the trade that brought Esposito, Hodge and Stanfield to the Bruins, and understandably so. It helped make them a champion. But Martin, the key player who left Boston in that trade with the Hawks in the summer of ’67, was a fine player in his own right.

The game I remember most clearly from that series was Game 5 at the Forum. With an opportunity to wrap up the series -and the Cup- in front of the Forum faithful, Montreal ended up on the losing end of an 8-7 game.

It was a high-scoring series for the most part, but that game was particularly out of the ordinary for what could have been a Cup-deciding game. The two best goalies in hockey, Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito, were in net that night, as they had been throughout the series. But especially that evening neither was it his best, and the 8-7 score reflected that. (In that series, the winning team scored six or more goals in four of the games.)

Montreal went on to win Game 6 in Chicago, to earn their sixth Cup in only nine years. But I’ll always remember the 8-7 game because it’s just not something you see very often in the playoffs- much less in the finals.

I wouldn’t argue that Niemi and Leighton are the best goalies in hockey (as Dryden and Esposito were in '73), though they played like two of the best to help get their teams this far. But last night was not a night for goalies.

I doubt we’ll see another game like that in the series.

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