Preseason Game 21 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1

Preseason Game 21
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Saturday, October 3, 1981
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

There is, according to Johnny Bower, a little of the late Terry Sawchuk in Vincent Tremblay.

“He crouches like Sawchuk did,” Bower said. “And when he comes out of the net, he glides out slow like Terry did.”

Bower, the old goaltender who shared the Leaf job with Sawchuk in the Stanley Cup seasons of the 1960s, was watching Tremblay drop a 3-1 exhibition loss to the Montréal Canadiens on Saturday night.

The defeat was not Tremblay’s fault. Every goal was a good one: the Canadiens dazzled the fuzzy-cheeked Leafs with their skating and puckhandling, and might have easily made the score 7-1 or 8-1 but for Tremblay.

Gaunt and very young looking behind his mask, he staked a claim for tomorrow’s opening night assignment with his goaltending, stopping Steve Shutt on a close-in rebound while the Leafs were two men short early in the game, then standing up to Guy Lafleur when rookie defenceman Fred Boimistruck handed the puck to the superstar right in front of the net later in the first period.

There were more big saves, notably on Bob Gainey and Doug Jarvis in the second period and Lafleur again in teh third.

Bower, who scouts for the Leafs and coaches their goaltenders, watched an inexperienced Tremblay flunk two earlier trials. This time, he said, Tremblay is ready.

Confidence and concentration, Bower said, are the big differences in the 21 year old after a full year’s professional experience with the New Brunswick Hawks of the American Hockey League.

“Concentration is a big factor,” he said. “When the puck got past him, he used to get worried.

“At New Brunswick, (coach) Doug Carpenter had him working on standing up all the time. He’s standing up well and he’s challenging the shooters. He’s playing the angles well, and the defence seems to know what he’s going to do. Last season, the defence was never sure what George (Jiri Crha) would do.”

Crha, who did most of the goaltending in the worst defensive season in Maple Leaf history, isn’t in the picture any more. Although he was in uniform Saturday, he was already ticketed for the minor leagues; Tremblay and Bunny Larocque are the Leaf goaltenders.

Coach Mike Nykoluk hasn’t decided who will be number one, or whether there will be a number one, although Tremblay has had the best training camp. After Saturday’s game, he had allowed only seven goals in 180 minutes.

“I’d rather have a number one and a backup,” Nykoluk said, “but if that’s not the case, if our two goaltenders are fairly equal, then they’ll have to split the job.”

Sawchuk wouldn’t be a bad model for Tremblay. Many hockey old-timers will tell you that when Sawchuk was with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1950’s, he played the position as well as it has been played.

Bower sees advantages in the Sawchuk-Tremblay style. The crouch lets Tremblay keep his eye on the puck in traffic and saves him from screen shots.

“When he comes out of the net, he coasts out,” Bower said. “He doesn’t come out fast like most goaltenders; that way he can move his feet.”

Indeed, Tremblay’s feet and his glove hand are his greatest assets. If he has a weakness, aside from his inexperience, it is his use of his stick. Bower has been trying to get him to poke check more and to use his stick more often to intercept passes through the crease.

This fall, the Leafs have brought him along slowly – two relief appearances on the road, the second half of a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, the first start on the road and then Saturday’s first start at home. Nykoluk didn’t plan it that way; as veterans, Crha and Larocque got the early starts.

The Saturday assignment evoked memories of Tremblay’s first big league start, during the 1979-80 season. It was at the Gardens and the Canadiens were the opposition.

“I was so nervous, I let in three goals in 12 minutes,” he said. “This time I told myself the Canadiens were just another team.”

The Canadiens were more than that, skating and passing in the old Montréal style. With Leaf point man Borje Salming on the sidelines, they dominated the Toronto power play, once scoring when they were a man short and surviving one 90 second stretch in which they were two men short without allowing a real scoring chance.

Gaston Gingras gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the first period with a power play goal scored from just inside the blueline. Rocky Saganiuk tied the score in the second period, but Pierre Larouche got back the lead.

The Leafs were on a power play in the third period when Gainey stole the puck from Boimistruck at the point. Gainey broke in alone and got away one shot that Tremblay blocked, but when no defender caught Gainey, he was able to slide the puck under the sprawling goalie from a difficult angle at the side of the net.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, October 5, 1981

1st Period
TOR PEN – 05:07 – Sittler, interference
TOR PEN – 06:22 – Boimistruck, cross checking
MTL PP2 GOAL – 07:03 – Gingras (Lapointe, Wickenheiser)
TOR PEN – 08:54 – McGill, fighting major
MTL PEN – 08:54 – Hunter, fighting major
TOR PEN – 12:53 – Melrose, fighting major
MTL PEN – 12:53 – Nilan, fighting major

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 08:20 – Paiement, fighting major
MTL PEN – 08:20 – Hunter, fighting major
TOR PEN – 09:01 – Melrose, fighting major
MTL PEN – 09:01 – Nilan, elbowing + fighting major
TOR GOAL – 13:27 – Saganiuk (Boschman, Turnbull)
TOR PEN – 16:11 – Turnbull, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 16:33 – Larouche (Gingras, Lapointe)
MTL PEN – 16:55 – Tremblay, elbowing + unsportsmanlike conduct double minor

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 09:28 – Shutt, high sticking
MTL SH GOAL – 09:46 – Gainey
MTL PEN – 10:08 – Risebrough, hooking

MTL – Herron (W, 21-22)
TOR – Tremblay (L, 29-32)

MTL – 12+10+10 = 32
TOR – 4+7+11 = 22

MTL Goaltenders: Denis Herron, Richard Sévigny. Defence: Gilbert Delorme, Brian Engblom, Gaston Gingras, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson. Forwards: Keith Acton, Bob Gainey, Mark Hunter, Doug Jarvis, Guy Lafleur, Pierre Larouche, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Chris Nilan, Doug Risebrough, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, Doug Wickenheiser.
TOR Goaltenders: Jiri Crha, Vincent Tremblay. Defence: Jim Benning, Fred Boimistruck, Bob Manno, Bob McGill, Barry Melrose, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Laurie Boschman, Bill Derlago, Stew Gavin, Pat Hickey, Terry Martin, Wilf Paiement, Rocky Saganiuk, Darryl Sittler, Rick Vaive, Ken Yaremchuk, Ron Zanussi.