• Sal Maiorana

Sabres end a big-time big, bad Bruins streak

BOSTON (Nov. 30, 1976) - Former Buffalo goaltender Gerry Desjardins gets a bit of a bad rap in the eyes of longtime Sabres fans, and it stems from what happened in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.

Desjardins was acquired in a trade from the New York Islanders in mid-February 1975, and he ultimately became the No. 1 goalie ahead of Roger Crozier and Gary Bromley as the Sabres advanced to the first of their two appearances in the Finals.

But in the first five games against Philadelphia, Desjardins was badly outplayed by the Flyers’ Bernie Parent, giving up 15 goals, and coach Floyd Smith benched him in favor of Roger Crozier for Game 6, a game Parent pitched a shutout to clinch the Cup.

As the Flyers were parading the cup around the Memorial Auditorium ice, the overwhelming belief among media and fans was that the play of Parent compared to Desjardins was the reason why Buffalo did not win the championship and until he retired early in 1977 as a Sabre, Desjardins never stopped hearing about it.

But what is often forgotten is that Desjardins was very good the next two years (60-27-17, 2.78 goals-against average) and at the start of the 1976-77 season, he was playing some of the best hockey of his life. “Concentration is the answer,” said Desjardins. “You can’t let up for a second. Maybe I was a little mixed up before. The only way to learn is to get older. I think I’ve benefited from a lot of mistakes.”

On the night of Nov. 30, 1976 at Boston Garden, he made a bad concentration mistake as he let in a 60-foot slapshot in the first period by Brad Park. But thereafter he was great, and the Sabres rallied behind him to put a 6-2 shellacking on the big, bad Bruins which snapped Boston’s 31-game home-ice unbeaten streak. The Bruins hadn’t lost in their historic arena since Dec. 23, 1975 of the previous season, and had begun 1976-77 with a 10-0-1 record at home.

Desjardins made his 17th straight start that night and he stopped 26 shots, drawing praise from general manager Punch Imlach. “We’ve had many problems, many of them injuries, but Desjardins has kept us in there,” Imlach said. “I don’t know where we’d be without him. He has been just super.”

Gilbert Perreault, Craig Ramsay, and Terry Martin scored within a span of 3:14 in the second period to blow it open, Don Luce tacked one on later in the period as the Sabres scored six straight goals overall after Park had scored.

Ultimately that season, the Bruins finished first with with 106 points, just two more than Buffalo, as Desjardins won 31 of the 49 games he played in with a 2.63 GAA. However, while Boston lost the Cup final to Montreal in a four-game sweep, the Sabres were swept out in the quarterfinals by the Islanders in four straight.

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