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Gainey’s gamble pays big dividend

I’m beginning to think Bob Gainey has extrasensory perception or psychic power or something like that.


I’m beginning to think Bob Gainey has extrasensory perception or psychic power or something like that.

And not because he had the foresight to turn down overtures in both 1997 and 2002 from the beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs, who dearly wanted him to become their general manager.

Not even because he had the vision last February to trade a solid goaltender, Cristobal Huet, so that greenhorn Carey Price could take over the position for the Montreal Canadiens and excel the way he has.

No, I think the Canadiens’ GM has a sixth sense because of what he said back on Aug. 3, when explaining to second-guessers why he invested $700,000 US on a one-year contract for defenceman Patrice Brisebois, an aging free agent.

“Patrice is a seasoned veteran,” Gainey insisted. “He’ll give us depth, but it’s more than that. At some point, I see him making a very big contribution to our success. You’ll see.”

We saw. It happened last night, when Brisebois slapped a high, wicked shot past Boston goalie Tim Thomas on a second-period power play, supplying the Canadiens with a goal and, ultimately, a 1-0 victory over the Bruins in an entertaining first-round playoff series that Montreal now leads 3-to-1.

Brisebois, 37, played the first 14 seasons of his career in Montreal, his hometown, and was re-signed by Gainey after two years with the Colorado Avalanche. This wasn’t the most palatable season for him. Coach Guy Carbonneau, his ex-Montreal teammate, made him a healthy scratch 30 times and he wound up scoring only three goals in 43 games.

“It was hard, to tell you the truth,” Brisebois told The Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky. “To be healthy and not play, that was the first time it has happened in my career … but I understood my role. Sometimes patience pays off.”

Brisebois’ goal was the only bit of offence in an intense, close-checking, hard-hitting game that, at times, Boston dominated.

There weren’t many outstanding scoring opportunities, but Price showed remarkable poise in blocking 27 Boston shots. Thomas, who turned 34 yesterday, wasn’t too bad, either, also making 27 saves. He blundered, however, on the Habs’ aforementioned power play by kicking out the puck to the point and presenting Brisebois with his scoring opportunity.

Overall, the Bruins played remarkably well, but not well enough, and the Canadiens can end this series with a victory tomorrow night in Montreal.

In three-plus decades as a columnist and broadcaster, Marty York has built a network of solid contacts and a renowned reputation for his hard-hitting, groundbreaking style. The tradition continues in Metro Sports.

 
 
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