Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gilles Gilbert: Overlooked And Forgotten By Too Many

You have all seen the clip of Lafleur getting that goal against the Bruins.

You have all seen Orr getting hauled down and getting the pass off behind his back for a goal (Johnny Bucyk actually scored the goal, by the way) against Minnesota.

You have all seen the clip of Beliveau's 500th goal against Minny.

You have all seen Rick McLeish get that goal that he tipped in against the Bruins.

Who was the goalie on all those? Why Gilles Gilbert, of course. Yes, that Lafleur goal was not against Cheevers.

Add to that Rick Vaive's 50th in 1983, and Gilly seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to hockey history. But the irony is, he usually played about as good as the masked man standing 200 feet away from him. Think Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup finals vs. Gilbert and the Bruins. Cheevers was off in the WHA, so Boston was left with Gilles Gilbert. Did Gilly play that badly?

In game 1, Gilbert played quite well, but Boston almost let the underdog Flyers win the game. Behind 2-0, Philadelphia came back to tie it. Then they nearly won it when they hit the crossbar behind Gilbert. Bobby Orr scored the game winner with less than a minute to go. Nobody remembers Gilly's fine game.

Gilly was also fine in game 2, and again the Bruins took a 2-0 lead. Gilbert allowed an early goal in the second period by Bobby Clarke. But the goal itself was a tip-in of a high shot. Gilbert did not have a chance.

And after that, Gilbert matched Parent save for save. The Flyers tied it on a goal by Moose Dupont with less than a minute left after pulling Parent. Gilles Gilbert was screened on that. What can you do?

In overtime, Gilbert made the save of the game when he stopped Terry Crisp (not quite the coach, yet) when Terry was on the doorstep. Parent also made a fine save on a breakaway. Bobby Clarke would win the game a little past the 12th minute of OT.

Gilbert did have a bit of an off-game in game 3. But he was not alone as the Bruins just didn't seem to have it. Boston scored just 1 goal to the Flyers' 4.

In game 4, Philadelphia took an early 2-0 lead. But 2-0 leads never seemed to mean much in this series, and the Boston Bruins proved that again. They quickly erased it, tying the game before the first period was half over. Parent and Gilbert than raged a ferocious duel, as both goaltenders knew the next goal would be huge in this series. The second period proved that as Gilly stopped all nine shots his away and Parent eight himself.

The Flyers broke through with 2 goals in the third to wrap it up and put the Bruins behind 3-1 in the series. What could Boston do to come back and win this series? Gilbert would have to play well.

He sure did in game 5. So, too, did Bobby Orr. Parent? Not quite. Boston rammed 5 goals behind him and Philadelphia could only answer with a single tally. The Flyers would have to win game 6 at home or come back to Boston for game 7. The Flyers had won 2 games in their history in Boston. One of them had been game 2 of this series. The odds didn't seem in Philly's favour here.

In game 6, Boston came out and peppered Parent as they had in game 5. The shots were 16-7 at one point. It seemed like the momentum from game 5 had carried over to this game. But on a 4 on 3 powerplay (with Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke in the penalty box following a scuffle in front of Gilly), Rick MacLeish tipped home Moose Dupont harmless looking point shot.

Here, Gilly matched Parent the rest of the way. He made several key stops. But it seemed like the Bruins weren't as good in the second and third period as they had in th first. Boston had several chances to tie it, but Parent got in the way. A penalty to Bobby Orr (and it's a debatable one, trust me) ended the Bruins' hope of a comeback. Parent and the Flyers won, 1-0. Parent got the Conn Smythe award as the Most Valuable Player of the 1974 playoffs. Who was the goalie for the Bruins? Oh!

And two seasons later, is now the right time to bring up that Gilbert won 17 straight from December 26, 1975 to March 5, 1976? That's an NHL record that still stands. Bobby Orr was hurt that year and did not play in any of those games (And sadly, would never again play for the Bruins). Gilbert was not in goal when Darryl Sittler got six goals and ten points on February 7, 1976.

In 1979, The Boston Bruins were actually the underdogs against the Mighty Montreal Canadians. This was not the final, but rather the semi-finals. But the favoured New York Islanders had lost to their rivals, the Rangers in the semi-finals. So whoever won the Boston / Montreal matchup was going to win the Stanley Cup. This series was going 7, although most people had the Canadians winning it in 6 or less games. The year before, it was the Habs over the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals in six games. Gerry Cheevers was back in net for Boston (having come back in 1975/76) and lost the first two games to put the Cubs in an early 2-0 hole. How would this series go 6? Cheevers, too, didn't play that bad. But anything less that spectacular isn't going to be enough against this team. The Habs were going for their 4th straight Stanley Cup and 6th overall of the 1970s.

Gilbert came in to play game 3, and turned the series in the Bruins favour by stopping the Habs the next 2 games. The two teams then split games 5 and 6. Winner-take-all game 7 in Montreal!

And Gilly was hot. So hot that Danny Gallivan, the famed Hockey Night In Canada broadcaster, remarked that Gilbert reminded him "of the time Johnny Bower beat the Habs personally in 1964." Now that is praise!

Boston took a 3-1 lead into the third period. But a pair of spectacular assists by Guy Lafleur tied it. As you can see, Lafleur was tough to stop on this night. However, Rick Middleton's goal at 16:01 seemed to spell the end of the Canadians.

But, as we all know, Boston put too many men on the ice. At this point, I should point out that the Bruins were coached by someone named Don Cherry. What more do I need to say about him?

So Lafleur tied it with his majestic, never-to-be-forgotten goal. But, really, Gilly had no chance. There was only 74 seconds to play in the game. While Lafleur was certainly known for this speed on skates, that one-timer slapshot was as hard as I have ever seen.

On his next shift, Lafleur again beat Gilly with a long shot, but it went wide. The game and the series would be decided in OT.

Ken Dryden, the Habs' goalie, made a super save early in overtime off Boston's Don Marcotte. And then the Habs really turned it on!

If not for Gilbert, the series would have ended a lot sooner. Lafleur continued to have trouble getting off the shot he wanted. His accuracy seemed lost!

Taking a nice pass from Doug Risebrough, Lafleur one-timed it again. But it missed the net. Mario Tremblay came on to the ice the next shift and fed the puck in front. But no Canadian player could get this thing home!

When the Lafleur line came back on, it was Steve Shutt who got a shot away from a sharp angle. The puck was lose for a bit. Again, no Montreal player could do a thing with it.

The Habs won the draw to Gilbert's left and the puck came to Lafleur. He managed to get away a backhand that went wide. But later that shift, Lafleur got a shot off that was deflected by Jacques Lemaire. But Gilly was equal to the task.

Marcotte proceeded to almost win the game for the Bruins with a deflection of his own. Then Lafleur, on another rush, fanned on it. But the result was a knuckleball of sorts that that Gilles had to be careful with. Gilbert made the glove save.

After Dryden made an easy stop, Montreal almost won the game when a pass from Mario Tremblay centred to Yvon Lambert. But Lambert tipped it wide.

Lafleur's next shift saw him make a nice long pass to Shutt, who took a long shot that Gilbert made an easy save on. Lambert came off the bench and missed with a shot. Rejan Houle tried a turnaround shot that Gilly again made an easy save on.

Finally, Tremblay centred the puck and Lambert got the disk behind Gilbert.

A tough way to lose. But should that take away from Gilly's fine performace in this game, and in this series? I don't think so. A goalie is used by the coach in situations like these because of the belief that he will make the team better. Whether he wins or not, often the team has done as well as it can because the goalie gave them a chance to win. In 1974 and 1979, Gilles Gilbert gave the Boston Bruins a great chance to win, it's just they came up a little short.

No one should be forgotten for that.

The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit:



Diamond, Dan. Total NHL. Toronto: Dan Diamond And Associates, 2003. Print.

Diamond, Dan. Total Stanley Cup: An Official Publication Of The National Hockey League. Toronto: Published in Canada by Total Sports Canada, 2000. Print.

Fischler, Stan. The All-New Hockey's 100. Scarborough: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. 1988. Print

Hughes, Morgan, Fischler Stan, Fischler Shirley, Joseph Romain, and James Duplacey. Hockey Chronicle: Year-By-Year History Of The National Hockey League. Lincolnwood: Publications International, 2007. Print.

Irvin, Dick. My 26 Stanley Cups: Memories of a Hockey Life. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2001. Print.

Weekes, Don, and Kerry Banks. Hockey's Top 100: The Game's Greatest Goals. Vancouver: Greystone, 2010. Print.

Weekes, Don, and Kerry Banks. Hockey's Top 100: The Game's Greatest Records. Vancouver: Greystone, 2008. Print.

Official Site of the National Hockey League." VISA. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <>

Sports Reference LLC. - Hockey Statistics and History. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Hockey Summary Project. 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. <>


  1. Loved him. He was a great goalie and his pads didn't take up 3/4 of the net like today. He played absolutely amazing against the best Canadians team of all time in the too many men game. Watched it on classic channel not too long ago and had forgotten how well he played.

  2. Thank you the article on Gilles Gilbert. He is my all time favorite Bruins goalie. I first Gilbert as North Star as a 20 year old kid. I knew he was going to be a great one. Harry Sinden knew that too. The Bruins needed a young good goalie and offered center Fred Stanfield to Minnesota. Wren Blair GM accepted the trade and Gilles Gilbert, with the lightning quick glove hand was a Boston Bruin. Playing goal for the Bruins in the early 70's wasn't all that easy. Remember the offensive style the Orr-Espo et all played. In return many chances for the opponents happened. Gerry Cheevers was outstanding and cool as goalie, but, my favorite Bruin goaltender of all time was and is Gilles Gilbert. Cheevers of course won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 72. Gilbert should have won it in 1974 and 1979 where he was so outstanding and kept the Bruins alive in the series against Montreal. Gilbert and Cheevers were a Bruin goalie tanden from 75-79. Don Cherry was their coach. He talked about the mentality of his two netminders. He knew they would challenge his critique if they had played a less than good game. Both showed up with the performance after being critized by the coach. They were the ultimate goaltending pair in the NHL and I doubt any team has had any equals. When Gilbert was coming to Boston for Stanfield my good old Gallery Gods friend Roger Naples said to me "The Bruins are trading my best friend for this kid (Gilbert) so he better be a good one". Sure enough, Gilbert was an all star in his first season as a Boston Bruins and lead them to the Stanley Cup final that year 1974.

  3. Gilles Gilbert was a good netminder who, was overshadowed by prominent veterans like Plante, Giacomin, Vachon, Esposito, Hall and Dryden who were the elite goaltenders in the NHL. I recall, as a youth, and an ice hockey amateur goalie being glued to Hockey Night In Canada as the game was a religious experience that hooked a country. Gilbert had many good caliber players in front of him like Orr and P. Esposito, but with his acrobatic style, when called upon to stop the puck, he was sensational, energetic and entertaining. Cheevers was a rock and the face of the Bruins but Gilbert deserved a lot of credit including the accolades of winning 17 straight games while between the posts. To all that inspired me to donn the pads, those were memorable moments and a time never forgotten. The game has dramatically changed, and cannot watch it since the late 1970's as a new and different breed of overpaid players took over and the game became a business and changed from its humbled roots. There is no comparison between those like Maniago, Crozier, Meloche and others and the ones who played after in the past thirty years. Its all about money and endorsements instead of the heart and soul of the game.

    Kerwin N. Maude, Canada

  4. Two things that a lot of hockey fans don't know about Gilbert. He got 1st star in 3 of the 5 games he played in that 79' series against the Canadien's & 2nd star in another. I still remember Lemaire getting a breakaway right after the opening faceoff in game 3 & Gilly robbing him with the glove. Jonathan & Park scored in that game & Gilly was sensational. Had Sinden not been so cheap & resigned Gilbert instead of trading him for a washed up Vachon the B's could've made a few more cup runs imo. It just seemed that Gilbert couldn't catch a break.