Mario Monday: "What a play... by Mario Lemieux."
We’ve spent the course of the last two Monday’s discussing Mario Lemieux’s slick hands and penchant for the dramatic.
But perhaps the one aspect of Mario’s game that made him so deadly was genetic and not learned.
Lemieux was a 6’4, 200 plus pound animal on the ice.
And it was his size that allowed him to tie all the other attributes of his game together into one monstrous package.
Lemieux had speed, he had hands, his shot is well documented, but it was his drive to the net and his head to head abilities in the face of grotesque interference that allowed him to be so masterful on the ice.
It isn’t every day that you name a player with such finesse and vision that was capable of playing the role of a power-forward as well.
We’re used to the post-locked rule changes in the NHL that has players regularly called for as much as lifting their stick parallel to ice and barely touching the jersey of an opposing player.
In the Lemieux-era, there was no such thing as blatant interference. You could drape yourself on the back of a player like a cape and still not get called.
Lemieux’s magic lies in the ability to use that size to his advantage.
If that goal looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it immortalized outside the Consol Energy Center in the form of a statue.
Another famous instance of Lemieux’s power and drive was against one of the best defensemen to ever play the game.
In a playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Ray Bourque had the gross misfortune of going one on one against Lemieux in a quick rush up ice.
Lemieux shows it all here; the finish, the dangle, the power, and the brains. He hides the puck in Bourque’s feet and powers right around him through hooks and holds that would get called threefold in today’s NHL.
Legitimate question: How do you even attempt to stop him there?
Perhaps one of my favorite Lemieux goals is a real “rub it in your face” story against the Boston Bruins. As I’m sure everyone remembers, Cam Neely had a bit of an issue against Ulf Samuelsson.
The controversy around the hit started immediately on the ice, and what most people forget is that Lemieux absolutely embarrassed Gary Galley to really blow the top off the game.
Again, you don’t see that type of finesse and power every day.
The video I’ve been saving for the end of this article is my personal favorite power-forward moment from Lemieux, if for no other reason than Bob Cole does a phenomenal job making the call here.
It was a 1988 game on Hockey Night in Canada against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lemieux bowls over two Maple Leaf defenders en route to one of his most powerful and magnificent goals of his career.
This one is a bit more physical than his now famous “Statue Goal.”
Check back next week when we take a look at Mario Lemieux’s personal office space on the power-play.