Boston Bruins Tales: The Death of the Montreal Jinx

Joe GillCorrespondent IIApril 9, 2011

Reggie Lemelin was stellar versus the Habs.
Reggie Lemelin was stellar versus the Habs.

Montreal has always been the burr in the Bruins’ saddle. They always found a way to beat the Bruins, especially in the playoffs.

The hated Habs beat the Black and Gold in the Finals in ’77 and ’78.

And the following year was just as painful.

Montreal was trailing the Bruins 4-3 in the waning minutes of Game 7 in the ’79 Stanley Cup Semifinals. Boston had a Stanley Cup Finals berth within their grasp until it happened.

The Bruins were called for a too many on the ice penalty. Of course, the Habs capitalized and Guy LaFleur tied the game. Then the Bruins succumbed in overtime at the hands of Montreal’s Yvon Lambert.

Yet again, Montreal heartbreak for the Bruins.

In the 80s, the Bruins and Habs crossed paths in the Adams Division playoffs. Montreal ousted Boston four straight postseasons from ’84-’87.  They were in the Bruins’ head.

A full fledged jinx was in bloom.

Heading into the ’87-’88 postseason, Boston had not beat Montreal in a playoff series since 1943. That’s 18 straight series.

Montreal ran away with the Adams Division that season, posting 103 points (2nd most points in the NHL behind Calgary), beating out the Bruins by 9 points. The Canadiens also took the season series against Boston with a 4-3-1 edge.

Both teams dispatched their semifinal opponents in six games. Montreal defeated the Hartford Whalers and the Bruins put away the Buffalo Sabres. 

The Bruins and Habs were on another playoff collision course. Montreal had history on their side and Boston had the “Jinx” in their heads. Members of this Bruins team tasted playoff defeat at the hands of the Canadiens four straight postseasons.  The odds were stacked against them again.

The series did not open the way the Bruins had wished for. In Game 1 in Montreal, the home team dominated and came away with a 5-2 victory.  Oddly enough, the Bruins were thwarted by Montreal goaltender Brain Hayward (20 saves on 22 shots), not Patrick Roy. Roy was benched  because of the seven goals he surrendered in Game 5 versus Hartford. The newly acquired Andy Moog (24 saves on 29 shots) took the loss for the Bruins.

Game 2 was pivotal for the Bruins. They could ill afford to go down 2-0 to their hated rivals.  Coach Terry O’Reilly decided to shake things up between the pipes by inserting veteran goaltender Reggie Lemelin into the lineup.

The move paid instant dividends. Lemelin stood on his head, batting away 27 of 30 shots en route to a 4-3 victory. Montreal goalie Brian Hayward didn’t fare as well; he surrendered 4 goals on just 14 shots. This was the shot in the arm the Bruins needed.

Montreal did some goalie shuffling of their own, replacing Brian Hayward with future Hall of Famer Patrick Roy. Roy played well in Game 3, but his stellar play was not enough. The Bruins found the back of the net three times and Lemelin held down the fort for a 3-1 victory.

Could the Bruins keep the momentum?

They were feeling the tide turn in the series. In Game 4, Rick Middleton and Gord Kluzak scored the only goals for the Black and Gold. Lemelin thwarted the Habs at every turn and registered the shutout on 22 shots.  Boston had the Montreal “Jinx” in a death grip, now it was time for the kill shot. However, this would not be easy going back to the hostile Montreal Forum.

Surprisingly, Game 5 was a cake walk for the Boston Bruins. The players wanted this game. The front office wanted this game. The fans wanted this game.

And the Bruins did not disappoint. Fueled by goals from Steve Kasper (2 goals), Cam Neely (2 goals) and the continued stellar play of Reggie Lemelin (28 saves on 29 shots), the Bruins crushed the Canadiens 4-1 and snuffed the “Jinx” once and for all.

Bruins fans still have the image of Cam Neely pumping his fist as he beat Patrick Roy for the team’s second goal. Of course, there was Montreal native Steve Kasper’s shorthanded goal to give the Bruins a commanding 3-0 lead. But it was Neely’s breakaway goal that sealed the Habs' fate that everyone really associates with that historic victory.

That French monkey was finally of the back of the Boston Bruins. Their emotions flooded on the ice at the conclusion of the game as Reggie Lemelin threw off his equipment and jumped in the arms of his teammates. Coach Terry O’Reilly showed his excitement as he jumped off the bench onto to the ice.  This was as close to a championship feeling, short of raising Lord Stanley.

“I remember coming back to the airport after winning Game 5 in Montreal, and there were thousands of people at the airport waiting for us.” said Bruins defensemen Gord Kluzak. “And it had been a tremendous relief to finally beat the Canadiens. Breaking the jinx, as it used to be called at the Montreal Forum, it sort of meant a lot to long term fans, meant a lot to us players to get that sort of nemesis off our back.”

The Bruins would ride this momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals where they were swept by the Edmonton Oilers.  Bitter end to great season for the Bruins, but the Montreal Jinx was finally dead.

Matt Kalman’s  book, 100 Things Bruins Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die was used to research this article.

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