Friday, May 28, 2010

NHL Life circa 1932

A pretty cool listing on for a set of Toronto Maple Leaf ledgers and receipts from the 1930's. I find it interesting to get a glimpse into the long distant past of professional hockey life. The above invoice to the NHL from the Maple Leafs is for a trip to Montreal to play the Maroons in the 1932 semi-finals. Toronto would tie 1-1 this, the first game of the two game total goal series . They would beat the Maroons 3-2 on April 2nd to take the series.

There were 17 seats and 17 sleeping berths purchased for the trip to Montreal. I myself have made the train trip from Toronto to Montreal many times and it's a scenic five to six hour trip. I'm assuming they left Union Station in Toronto on the evening of March 30th (hence the sleeping berths) after dispatching of Chicago in the first round on March 29 at Maple Leaf Gardens. The train itself cost $373 for seats and berths for 17 players. That's almost 6000 of today's dollars. It's interesting that the Leafs carried no extra players with them, only these 17 guys played throughout the playoffs, it seems that no others even travelled with them. This was the era of the Kid Line of Charlie Conacher, Joe Pimeau and Busher Jackson as well as Ace Bailey, King Clancy, Hap Day and Lorne Chabot in net. These stars were afforded an expense of $5.00 per day for meals, which is almost 80 current dollars. Their hotel expenses were $2.50 per man, or the same $5.00 ($80 current) per room, as they boarded two per room.
The trip itself was a mere step on the way to a Stanley Cup as the Leafs would go on to sweep the Rangers by tennis scores of 6-4, 6-2 and 6-4. More looking into the life of an old time hockey team to come as there are lots of great images of these Leaf expense ledgers to delve into.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Streaking Toews

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews has scored at least a point in 13 consecutive playoff games, tallying 25 points over the streak. He has a shot at the all-time record for one playoff year of Bryan Trottier. Trotts scored in 18 straight post-season matches in 1981 scoring in each and every game that playoff totalling 29 points. Wayne Gretzky in 1988 and Al MacInnis in 1989 each scored in 17 straight games. Gretz scored 41 points in his 17 games (including the re-played "power failure" game at Boston Garden in the final). MacInnis notched 26 points in his 17 game streak. Both of them won the Conn Smythe in their respective years, Trottier however did not. No, Mike Bossy's 17 goals and 35 points didn't beat Trottier, it was Butch Goring's heart and leadership...and his 20 points.
Toews also has a chance to become the highest scoring playoff performer aged 21 or under in NHL history. He just turned 22, but in NHL terms this is his 21 year old season. His 26 points are fifth most all-time, one behind Sidney Crosby in 2008, two behind Eric Staal in '06 and five back of Sid the kid last season. The number one all-time playoff scorer among under 22 year olds may be a bit of a surprise. In 1983, Boston's Barry Pederson scored 14 goals, 18 assists and 32 points in 17 games. With a good final series Toews could take this record and most likely a Conn Smythe Trophy of his own.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ron Hextall and the stolen Conn Smythe Trophy

Ron Hextall did not deserve the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1987....there, I said it. I recently caught game seven of the '87 finals on ESPN Classic, where the Oilers beat the Flyers 3-1. Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy to the disdain and boos of the Northlands Coliseum. Hextall was (and remains) the fourth player to win the trophy in a losing cause. Even as a teenager following these playoffs as they happened, I thought this was an injustice. Upon further inspection, I believe he only won because he was a rookie, and was the "sexy" pick as opposed to the proper pick.

When looking at his numbers, it's hard to figure why he won. Hextall finished with 15 wins, 11 losses and a GAA of 2.77. Oilers, Grant Fuhr went 14 and 5 with an average of 2.46. I realize that stats cannot tell the whole story, but even if we dig further the award doesn't seem justified. His .908 Save Pct was the same as Fuhr's and tied for third behind Ken Wregget and Kelly Hrudey. Also, Hextall had nine victories in close victories (games decided by two goals or less) while Fuhr had ten such wins.

As well, 1987 proved to be the best defensive team effort for the Oilers during their dynasty, which is even more reason that Fuhr should have won the Smythe. During this post season, the Oilers allowed 2.71 goals per game. Every other post-season between 1983 and 1988, they allowed between 2.95 and 3.13 goals per game.

On top of this, Wayne Gretzky could have also been awarded the Conn Smythe on the strength of the third most assists in NHL playoff history. In 21 games, Gretzky scored only five goals but notched 29 helpers. He finished six points up on Philly's Brian Propp.

As I stated, I believe Hextall won merely because of the fact that he was a rookie. If proper consideration was given, Fuhr or Gretzky should have won the award.

Next I will look at the other three Conn Smythe winners on Cup losing teams. Reggie Leach was an easy and obvious choice in 1975, Roger Crozier in 1966 and Glenn Hall in 1968 perhaps were not so deserving....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Michael Leighton, get out the microscope.

Ok, I know it's a small sample size, not even five full games and 275 minutes of hockey. Even still, Michael Leighton's 0.87 goals against average is ridiculously impressive. Since replacing the injured Brian Boucher halfway through game five of the Boston series he has stopped 124 of 128 shots against for a save percentage of .969, crazy.
As it stands currently, Leighton is hanging with the greats of alltime. Only seven times in NHL history has a goaltender kept his GAA under 1.00 for an entire post season, all 1952 or earlier. Alex Connell of the 1927 Ottawa Senators had a 0.60 average in six games and Boston's Tiny Thompson had the same average over five games in 1929. In 1952, Terry Sawchuk had the greatest goaltender performance in NHL history in leading Detroit to the Cup. He won all 8 games, collecting 4 shutouts and allowing only 5 goals for a 0.62 GAA.

In all likelihood, Leighton will not win his next six games while allowing less than a goal per game. However, his current hot streak is not unprecedented in his pro career. Over 19 playoff games in his American Hockey League days, he a collective GAA of 1.35 and Save Pct of .956. In fact over his last two AHL post-seasons consisting of 11 games, his average is exactly 1.00 with an amazing Save Pct of .970, maybe Leighton will go undefeated the rest of the way after all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Comeback, Cammalleri, and Original Six Finals

  • I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the Flyers comeback against Boston. In beating Boston in four straight elimination games by a combined score of 15-8, they truly used a team effort. Seven Flyers averaged at least a point per game over the last four, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell tallied four, Matt Carle and Ville Leino chipped in five and Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere had six points each. As well, both Brian Boucher and Micheal Leighton won two of the games. All this, plus they have Conn Smythe candidate, Chris Pronger, who has 11 points in 12 games. A true team effort.

  • In Montreal, Mike Cammalleri has 12 goals through two rounds, the most goals a Hab has scored in the post-season since Guy Lafleur also had 12 in 1975. During their improbable 1993 Cup run, the Habs top goal scorers were Vinny Damphousse with 11 and Kirk Muller with 10 over the 20 games played. Cammalleri has a great shot at the all-time Montreal record of 15 set by Yvan Cournoyer in 1973. The only other Habs to tally at least 12 playoff goals in a year are Frank Mahovlich with 14 in 1971, Maurice Richard with 12 in 1944 (in only 9 games), and Jean Beliveau with 12 in 1956. Nice company Mr. Cammalleri.

  • On the topic of Montreal, the is a chance we will see an Original Six Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1979 when Montreal beat the Rangers four games to one. Throughout the '70s there were six different Original Six Finals, and none since. Of course if Chicago makes the final and wins a Cup, they will erase the longest current drought of 49 years. This would vault the Maple Leafs to the top of the Cup-less charts which will hit 44 years next season.

  • In junior hockey, the Windsor Spitfires have now won nine consecutive games after coming back from down three games against Kitchener, sweeping Barrie in the OHL final, and destroying Brandon in the first game of the Memorial Cup. Over the nine games, Taylor Hall and Scott Timmins have 16 points, Adam Henrique 15 points, and Ryan Ellis has 13. Windsor has outscored three of the best teams in Junior hockey by a count of 50 to 24.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Luongo Myth

Here are the playoff numbers for Roberto Luongo over his last three post-seasons.

2006/07 .941 SavePct 1.77 GAA
2008/09 .914 SavePct 2.52 GAA
2009/10 .895 SavePct 3.22 GAA

His record over those three years is 17 Wins and 17 Losses.

I have heard repeatedly the statement that Luongo was "hung out to dry" by his defense, and that the injuries to the Canuck defense brigade were to blame for Vancouver's post-season failure. The Montreal Canadiens lost their best defenseman and arguably best player in Andrei Markov, and have managed to make it to the semi-finals. This was achieved with the help of world-class goaltending provided by Jaroslav Halak. The Canucks did not receive world class goaltending.

Admittedly, Vancouver's playoff shortcoming should not fall entirely on the shoulders of Luongo, Hank and Danny Sedin share the blame as well. They were taken off their game by the Black Hawks and failed to step up in a leadership role. Over the six games of the second round, the Sedins produced 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points and a -6 rating. Chicago's counterparts, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews put up 7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points and a +3. No contest.

The Vancouver Canucks window of oppurtunity to win a Cup was perhaps never better this season. The fact that they have Luongo, Burrows, Kesler and the Sedins locked up contractually for years to come means they have no choice but to stick with this core. Unless Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder prove to be Calder candidates in the next few years, this group may just not be good enough to win it all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

USA embarrassing, Czechs not much better...

After losing in overtime to Germany to open the World Championships, the USA then lost 2-1 to Denmark in another OT game. Denmark sports two NHLers in Islander Frans Nielsen and Sens rookie, Peter Regin and also 2007 first rounder Lars Eller, who scored 57 points with AHL Peoria this past season. As surprising as the Danes beating the is, perhaps it's not such a shock after all when you look at the States roster.

With only one 2010 Olympian on the roster in the form of Jack Johnson they were behind the eight-ball from the get go. Scott Clemmensen as a number one goalie on a national team of any kind is pretty much a joke. Andy Greene, Keith Yandle and even Matt Gilroy joining Johnson on defense is adequate if not overly impressive. Where the US really embarrasses themselves is in the forward brigade. Brandon Dubinsky is the only player to have notched 20 NHL goals this season, Kyle Okposo, TJ Oshie and TJ Gagliardi are fairly promising NHLers. Beyond that, there's really not much.

Norway beating the Czechs today is slightly less embarrassing. After 18 World Championship games since 1937, the Nords finally got the better of the Czechs. Norway has a similar roster that they had in the Olympics with Patrick Thoresen, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen and goaltender Pal Grotnes leading the way. The Czechs on the other hand have Jaromir Jagr, and he's getting on in age.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Playoff Power Players

If not for Todd Bertuzzi's leg, Johan Franzen would have tied the NHL record with five goals in a playoff game tonight. Still, he managed to notch a hat-trick and four points in the first period. His three goals over a 3 minute and 26 second span falls two seconds short of the record for fastest playoff hat-trick. On April 15, 1985 Philadelphia Flyer Tim Kerr scored three in 3:24 of the second period. He would tally one more that period to set the record with four in one period. Mario Lemieux would equal him on April 25, 1989 against those same Flyers.

Chicago's Brent Seabrook is somewhat quietly having a fantastic playoff career. Among defensemen that have played at least 25 career playoff matches, Seabrook ranks fifteenth all-time in points per game. In 26 career games he has 19 points for an average of 0.73 per game. This number is higher than such stars as Niklas Lidstrom, Larry Murphy, Pierre Pilote, Sergei Gonchar and Mike Green of the Capitals. What makes Seabrook`s scoring rate even more impressive is the fact that over his regular season career he has averaged only 0.37 Pts per game. He doubles his point production in the post season, impressive indeed.

The leaders among defensemen are no surprise. Bobby Orr leads far and away with 92 pts in 74 playoff games for an average of 1.24 (he is actually ninth among ALL players), Brian Leetch is second with 1.02 and Paul Coffey holds third place with 1.01. The top ten is rounded out by Paul Reinhart, Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, Ray Bourque, Doug Wilson, Ian Turnbull and Brad Park.

Miro Satan is leading the Bruins in playoff scoring with 10 points in 9 games, this after scoring only 14 points in 38 regular season games. Quite an amazing resurgence considering he hasn`t been even close to a point per game in the regular season since 2002-03.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Joe Pavelski...Hot

Joe Pavelski has two goals and one assist in each of the Sharks last three games. Somewhat surprisingly, nobody has notched three consecutive multiple goal games in the playoffs in almost 18 years. From May 23 to May 28, 1992 Mario Lemieux had back-to-back-to-back two goal games. Mario's three game streak came in the last game of the semi-finals against Boston and the first two games of the final against Minnesota.
What makes Pavelski's run all the more impressive is the fact that goals are much harder to come by in 2010 than in 1992. In 1992/93 the NHL averaged 6.96 goals for each game played. In 2009/10 the league scoring average was 5.68 G/GP, 82% of the previous era.
On another topic, is it just me or is there an inordinate number of rookie defensemen making an impact in this year's playoffs? Montreal's P.K. Subban is getting all the press after showing poise under pressure and scoring 3 points in his first 4 games. Subban is also now playing over twenty minutes a game against Pittsburgh. Johnny Boychuk of Boston has stepped up with four points in seven games and played an amazing 33 minutes, 29 seconds in game one against the Flyers. Boychuk's minutes were the most of anyone on the ice, even Chara and Pronger. In the first round against Buffalo, Boychuk averaged 25:51 per game.
San Jose's Jason Demers has three points in eight games while getting the fifth most defense playing time on the Sharks. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson scored six points in six games in their first round loss, and still leads all NHL rookies in playoff scoring by a two point margin.
Capitals John Carlson looked like a bigger Mike Green against the Canadians with 4 points and a +6, both numbers better than Green.
All this, and we haven't mentioned Calder candidate Tyler Myers who had one goal in the six game loss to Boston yet averaged 25:54 in playing time.
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