Preseason Game 12 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 0

Preseason Game 12
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 0
Wednesday, September 28, 1977
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

The Montréal Canadiens, looking like the Habs who asconded with the Stanley Cup last season, won their first game in five exhibition starts last night, blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0.

The Canadiens, using almost the same lineup they used in the playoffs, outchecked and outskated the Leafs, who looked genuinely impressed with the Habs’ flair.

“They looked experienced, they were using their best players and using the right men in the right situations,” said Leafs coach Roger Neilson after his loss behind the Toronto bench.

Toronto has scored exhibition wins over Detroit and Buffalo. The Leafs play Washington tonight in London.

“They were using Doug Jarvis and Bob Gainey to check on penalties and putting out the checking line in the last minute. It’s as though they were playing a league game,” he said, as though it weren’t quite within the rules of fair play.

If it were a crime to put his best team on the ice for exhibition games, Montréal coach Scotty Bowman would plead guilty.

“Sure it was our strongest lineup this season,” Bowman admitted. “We hadn’t won yet, we had two losses and two ties because we were experimenting with players. I wanted to give our boys some work tonight and have a good look at them.”

Because of the Canadiens’ speed, the Leafs didn’t always have Bowman’s opportunity to have a good look.

“What an experience to have guys with wheels like that coming in on you,” said rookie defenceman Trevor Johansen.

“I played against Gilbert Perreault of Buffalo the other night,” said Keven Campbell, another blueline rookie. “Compared to these guys, Perreault was standing still.”

The Canadiens took a 1-0 advantage in the first period when Jarvis raced in on Campbell and startled Toronto goalie Wayne Thomas with his quick release.

The Canadiens extended that lead to 3-0 in the second period on a power play goal by Steve Shutt and a pretty pass play that ended with a goal by Lemaire and cheers of admiration from the sellout crowd of 16,485 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Canadiens were always quick on their rebounds and Shutt’s goal was the result of a second effort. Lemaire’s goal was the finale of a slick tic-tac-toe exchange from Guy Lafleur, to Shutt, to Lemaire.

The only time the crowd let out a louder yell came when it was announced that the Blue Jays had beaten the Boston Red Sox.

The Canadiens outshot Toronto 33-26, with Vézina Trophy winner Ken Dryden handling his few tense moments coolly. The Leafs generated offence only in spurts.

Thomas worked diligently in the Toronto net and was beaten not so much by mistakes as by the Canadiens’ prowess around the net.

On defence, Montréal rookie Gilles Lupien acquitted himself well, though he has a slender chance of breaking into the formidable Montréal lineup. He made a diving sprawl early in the game to thwart a Dave Williams breakaway.

“That made a big difference,” said Canadiens captain Yvan Cournoyer. “He may have turned the game around there.”

Last night’s game was Cournoyer’s first since his back injury in March and he displayed as much speed as ever.

Larry Robinson, the Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenceman, was a standout with his hitting and passing. For Toronto, good defensive games were turned in by Brian Glennie, Campbell and Johansen.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, September 29, 1977