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It's up to Canadiens' scorers to give Dustin Tokarski his Ken Dryden moment


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Dustin Tokarski (left) and Ken Dryden (right), in two photos taken 44 years apart by the legendary Bruce Bennett.

Dustin Tokarski looked shaky in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff playoff outing, beaten three times in Game 2 of the Montreal Canadiens' Eastern Conference Final series with the New York Rangers

But the Canadiens are undeterred. They liked what they saw. On Wednesday, with Carey Price still out with injury, coach Michel Therrien announced that his club was going back to the rookie for Game 3.

Some might scratch their heads here, thinking Peter Budaj deserves a shot, but there's a readymade two-word answer for anybody that might suggest it's foolishness to pin the Canadiens' hopes on an untested rookie: Ken Dryden.

Like Tokarski, Dryden was thrown into the playoff fire long before he'd put together anything even remotely resembling a full NHL season. He played just 6 games in the 1971 campaign (Tokarski started 3, for comparison's sake), but he acquitted himself nicely enough in those outings that the team made the curious and controversial decision to look past all-star starter Rogie Vachon and turn the crease over to Dryden for their first round series against the heavily-favoured Boston Bruins.

Dryden's first start looked a lot like Tokarski's, with the Canadiens dropping the game by an identical score of 3-1. And his second start was even worse. He gave up five. But it looked different, because the outcome was different. After going down 5-1, Montreal stormed back, led by Henri Richard and Jean Beliveau, to win the game 7-5. To this day, it's considered one of the worst moments in Bruins' history (alongside their recent Game 7 loss to the Canadiens, according to the prone-to-remarkable-hyperbole Dan Shaughnessy).

Powered by the comeback, Dryden and the Canadiens came out and won Game 3 as well, 3-1. They'd drop Games 4 and 5, losing 5-2 and 7-3, respectively, before forcing Game 7 with an 8-3 victory in Game 6.

And in Game 7, they'd complete the upset with a 4-2 victory. Look at Ken Dryden go!

The rest, as they say, is history, and by that I mean the real story has been crafted into something more closely resembling a myth, thanks the narrative-sculpting power of time, so now we look back on that unlikely upset and the Stanley Cup that followed -- Montreal's 17th -- as the miraculous rise of Ken Dryden, who was awarded the Conn Smythe for starring in this moving sports drama.

But that's not really how it went. 

Look at those Round 1 wins. 7-5. 3-1. 8-3. 4-2. And Ken Dryden is the story? After his team went down 5-1 and the Canadiens stormed all the way back, the goalie received the plaudits?

It's silly, really. There's no question that Dryden was a great goaltender, and he played very well in those playoffs, when goals were a great deal easier to come by. and he looked like a total badass resting on his goal stick, but let's get serious. As hockey fans know full well, goalies get undue credit and undue blame in equal measure. When they win, it's because they played well enough to win. When they lose, it's because they played poorly enough to lose.

But any goalie would kill to rest easy in the knowledge that keeping the opponent to under six goals is tantamount to playing well enough to win.

The Canadiens got unbelievable performances during the 1971 Cup run from Beliveau, Frank Mahovlich, Yvan Cournoyer, and Jacques Lemaire, four of the top five scorers in those playoffs. They averaged five goals in their wins.

Rogie Vachon could have won with those numbers too, and he knew it, which is why he angrily demanded a trade in the offseason, and went on to have some of his best years in Los Angeles. That could have been him. It could have been a lot of people.

Right now, for the Canadiens, it can only be Carey Price, and that's their biggest problem. He's not the one scoring the goals. No one is. The Canadiens have beaten Henrik Lundqvist just three times in two games. That's not enough, unless your goaltender is perfect, and not even the great Ken Dryden was perfect. Fortunately, he didn't have to be.

There's a lot resting on Tokarski's shoulders in Game 3. But it's up to the Canadiens to make him look like the second coming of Ken Dryden.

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