It's hard to top Larry Robinson's resume. Not only did the Hall of Famer win six Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens, but he also hoisted the trophy as head coach of the New Jersey Devils in 2000. Now the director of player development for the San Jose Sharks after three years as an associate coach, Robinson has been helping this generations' defenders hone their craft in Northern California.
But there's always the one that got away and for Robinson, it came in 1989, when he played his last season for the Habs, before joining the Los Angeles Kings the next year. Montreal faced off against Calgary in a rematch of the 1986 final (won by the Habs) and despite the fact the Flames had a slightly better record in the regular season, Robinson believes the Canadiens should have won the Cup.
"We screwed up," he said. "We flew back after games – Calgary waited until the next morning to fly and we just ran out of gas. In '86, we had no business beating Calgary. Kind of ironic."
As for his most favorite Cup win, Robinson was quick to name the '76 Canadiens, who dusted off the Broad Street Bullies of Philadelphia. The Flyers had entered the season as back-to-back champs and still had an aura of brutality around them – not that Robinson himself had ever been intimidated – but Montreal put the boots to them in a four-game sweep.
The most unique victory for Robinson was when he was behind the bench in New Jersey.
"It's much different as a coach," he said. "Winning as a player, you almost have a relaxed feeling after: you've taken a pounding and it was all worth it. You're more satisfied as a coach because it's two months of almost no sleep, juggling players and interviews, keeping 25 guys on the same page. You did your preparation, but after that, it's not up to you."
With both Tampa-New York and Anaheim-Chicago slated to go at least six games, the possibility of Game 7 magic in the conference final is there and very real. Interestingly enough, Robinson believes that it's much harder for the team that is up in the series to win in Games 5 and 6, since any loss gives the opponent hope and the chance to steal momentum.
"When you get to Game 7, Lady Luck has more of a presence," Robinson said. "It's not always the best team that wins – there are bad bounces, or one team gets a couple penalties – Games 5 and 6 are the tough ones to put away."
Having said that, there is magic surrounding that seventh showdown.
"Game 7, you've got nothing to lose," Robinson said. "If you can't play a Game 7, you don't deserve to be in this league."