MONTREAL, May 4 - The Montreal Canadiens' main man in their drive for a 23rd Stanley Cup is a 20-year-old with an unpronounceable name who talks to goal posts.
Until he became a playoff hero, Patrick Roy heard himself introduced as the Anglo-Saxon first name that is plain old Roy, as in Rogers.
Now, however, announcers throughout North America are vying for the proper nasal Francophone touch to "Ro-aaaa."
Thus far, in leading the Canadiens through two playoff rounds and into a 2-0 lead over the New York Rangers in the Prince of Wales Conference championship series, Roy has permitted an average of only 1.82 goals in 12 games.
His save percentage is .926, also bordering on the sensational.
"If you want to do well in the playoffs, you have to get good goaltending," said veteran Montreal defenseman Larry Robinson. "The reason we're where we are is Patrick. He's been a rock back there."
"He kept us in all of the first periods against Boston, stopping everything that came toward him, and he hasn't let up against Hartford or the Rangers."
It has been a remarkable run for Roy, who looks like the kid who is taking your daughter to her first prom.
He had played only 20 minutes in the NHL before this season, and his junior credentials hardly were exceptional, with a 5.55 goals-against mark in his final season at Granby, Quebec.
But anyone who has seen him play comes away impressed.
After Granby closed out its dreadful 22-44-2 season a year ago, the Canadiens told Roy, a third-round draft choice in 1984, to join the Sherbrooke Canadiens in the American Hockey League. He posted a 10-3 record with 2.89 goals-against in leading Sherbrooke to the Calder Cup.
After a game in which his Maine team outshot Sherbrooke by 51-19 (23-5 in the first period) and lost, 7-3, Coach Tom McVie said: "They called Ken Dryden an octopus, but I've never seen a guy sweep up the puck like Roy."
"If we'd switched goalies, we would have won, 15-1."
Montreal Coach Jean Perron liked Roy from the start of training camp in September, but it was not until March that Roy eclipsed Doug Soetaert and Steve Penney to become the club's No. 1 goalie.
A big problem was lack of strength. At 6 feet and 165 pounds, Roy had trouble playing back-to-back games.
Game 4 Monday night in New York will be his 10th game in 19 nights, but he says he finds the new playoff format of playing every other night to be ideal.
"We play every two days and I rest on the day off," he said. "That's made it really good. And each game I get more experience and I feel more confident. It's been going just great for me."
His success has been a joy not only for him and his teammates, but for the media as well.
He is willing to stand and talk, in either English or French, as long as someone is asking him a question.
After Thursday's 2-1 victory over the Rangers, a reporter asked him about his pregame habit of skating toward the blue line, turning and facing the net.
"I talk to my goal posts," he replied, without the hint of a put-on.
Asked whether the posts answered him, he said, "I guess so. They made two stops tonight."
Before Saturday's 6-2 victory, he indicated that he had something in his eye, drawing the attention of officials, teammates and the Canadiens' trainer.
Asked about that apparent problem, Roy said, "That was a good thing for us. It stopped their tempo. We knew the Rangers would start out very aggressively, and I think that helped to slow them down."
Although the presence of three goaltenders could have caused much controversy in a city in which the media is in constant search of same, none of the three expressed public complaint about Perron's sometimes inexplicable selections.
For his part, Roy said: "It's up to the coach to make the decision on who he wants to play."
"The only thing I can do is go out and do my best when the coach decides to put me in the net."
Actually, though, Roy made the final decision easy, because he was the only Montreal goalie to beat rival Quebec, as the Canadiens struggled to a 2-5 record against the Nordiques.
It was appropriate that his success against Quebec should be the launching pad to his current success.
He is a native of the Quebec City suburb of Ste. Foy, and he did not find an easy path to success in the provincial capital.
"I have learned to deal with adversity," he said. "When I was 15, I was turned down by the three-A midgets in Ste. Foy.
"Two other teams cut me, too, so to continue my career, I had to play on a lesser team at Cap Rouge.
"Then in junior, there was not a very good team in Granby, but I got a lot of shots and a lot of work. I think that helped me more than if I had played for a very good team."
The way the playoffs are going, Roy's rocky road will terminate in the Stanley Cup final.
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