Ken Dryden was the top goalie of the 1970s. The
highly intellectual Dryden appeared as if from nowhere in 1971 just in time to
magically carry the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup - the first of 6
championships in 8 years in the National Hockey League. 258 NHL wins vs. only 57
losses and 5 Vezina trophy wins ensured his status as the best goalie of that
decade and perhaps of all time.
However Dryden seemed to struggle against
international competition, namely the Soviets. Phil Esposito once called
a Ken Dryden a "damn octopus" because of his hulking size and quick
arms and legs. For much of the series Dryden looked like a fish on land. He was
clearly outplayed by Tretiak and at times his partner Tony Esposito.
Dryden had the unfortunate task of playing game one against the
Soviets. His goaltending style was to cut down the angles by challenging the
shooter and making the most of his immense size. But the Soviets used their cute
offense consisting of sudden criss-crossing passes and shifty movement to make
Dryden move around and lose his angles, and thus make him look silly at times.
Backup Tony Esposito benefited from his bird's eye view on the bench to notice
this and he was able to make adjustments to his game when he got the call in
games 2 and 3, and stayed further back in his net and avoided challenging the
"I have been very fortunate to have played on six Stanley
Cup winning teams in Montreal," wrote Dryden in Brian McFarlane's book Team
Canada 1972: Where Are They Now. "But nothing in hockey ever brought me so
low or took me so high. And nothing meant so much."
In an interview with the Globe and Mail in 1997, the always
philosophical Dryden looked back upon the series saying that "a
feeling comes before a thought comes. The feeling is a mixture of pain,
satisfaction and mostly relief. And in retrospect, a sense of gratitude of
having had that as an experience."
Although he is one of the NHL's all time greats, Dryden is also
known as a best selling author. His book "The Game" is a legendary
hockey book, but it was not his first published effort. Face-Off At The Summit -
a 1973 book published by Little Brown - is an interesting look at the series
through the eyes of one of the key competitors.