A soft spoken, articulate young man named Ken Dryden was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1964 but his pro rights were traded to Montreal for a couple of young players who never played a shift in the NHL. But Dryden opted for a college education and played for Cornell University. He returned to professional hockey in 1970-71 with the Canadiens’ farm team in Halifax.
When the Canadiens opened the playoffs, they were pitted against the powerful Boston Bruins, led by superstars Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. The Bruins had smashed a fistful of records on their way to a first place finish. They had won 15 more games than the Canadiens and finished with 24 more points.
The Bruins were stunned to see Ken Dryden—a raw rookie—start in goal for Montreal. Had Scotty Bowman lost his mind? They’d show his rookie netminder what playoff pressure was all about.
As expected, Boston took the opening 3‑1 and in game two, the Bruins raced out to a 5‑1 lead.
Suddenly the Canadiens began to fight back. They scored a goal, then another, then four more to take a 7‑5 lead. The Bruins were rattled by the second period barrage but they weren’t about to concede. They re‑grouped for a third period assault on Dryden.
But the lanky goaltender turned aside shot after shot. Some of his saves were truly magnificent. And when the final buzzer sounded, he’d won his first playoff game.
In game two, Dryden continued to give Montreal spectacular goaltending and the Canadiens eventually eliminated the frustrated Bruins in seven games. Phil Esposito, who had scored a record 76 goals during the regular season, couldn’t believe a rookie goalie had held him to just three goals in the series.
The Canadiens went on to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks in the final series for the Stanley Cup . Once again, Dryden played a key role in the victory. At season’s end he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs, a remarkable achievement for an inexperienced newcomer.
The following season he continued to play brilliantly and skated off with the Calder Trophy as the league’s top freshman. No player in history had been a playoff MVP one season and a rookie award winner the next.
Dryden went on to win 258 games for Montreal while losing only 57. His .758 winning percentage is the best goaltending average in NHL history. He helped the Habs to win six Stanley Cups and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
After retirement, he has lived an active and interesting life. For more information I suggest reading directly from the source. He has written several books including
Face-Off at the Summit. This was written in diary form and outlined the Canadian experience in the famous Canada vs. Soviet Union series of 1972.
The Game which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award.
Home Game: Hockey and Life in Canada written with Roy MacGregor, was developed into an award-winning Canadian Broadcasting Corporation six-part documentary series for television.
The Moved and the Shaken: The story of one man’s life
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