Sunday, February 27, 2011

Golden Memories, and things I'd forgotten

Do your self a favour, watch the 2010 Gold Medal game again. TSN2 replayed the game in it's entirety today and I managed to catch most while I was PVRing it. I had not seen the game since the day it was played and it really is amazing how many little turning points and points of interest that I had forgotten after the euphoria of the overtime winner (it may have also been the six-pack I drank during the game). Below are a few points from later in the game that stood out to while watching it once again.

  • With a 2-1 lead going into the third, Canada hits two posts behind Ryan Miller in a span of 45 seconds in the first two minutes of the period. Shots by Shea Weber then Chris Pronger had the tender beat but couldn't find the twine.
  • With just over three mintes left in the third Sidney Crosby had a breakaway and was hassled from behind by Patrick Kane just enough to not get a clean shot.
  • When USA coach Ron Wilson pulls Miller at the 1:30 mark, the extra attacker he sends out is none other than Phil Kessel. After the subsequent US timeout at the whistle ten seconds later Kessel is not on the ice.
  • On a 45 foot shot by Joe Pavelski, Roberto Luongo bobbles the puck into the slot allowing the play to continue leading to Parise's equalizer 12 seconds later.
  • A mere 15 seconds before Crosby won it in overtime, Scott Niedermayer coming out of his end puts the puck right on Joe Pavelski's stick resulting in a terrific USA scoring chance.
  • On the winner, the puck gets slightly held up in referee Bill McCreary's skates on the boards forcing Crosby to poke the puck one-handed back to Iginla in the corner.
  • There was almost five minutes of whistle-less play leading up to the winning goal.

Right about this point is where it all becomes a blur for me. I do know my house full of celebrants (children too) immediately headed outside to the street. We ended up taking the Seabus ferry from North Vancouver to downtown to join in the revelry. The full boat of people sang Oh Canada, repeatedly. I also remember my five year old daughter being worried that I was walking down the middle of the road with my hockey stick flag high fiving people in cars. I assured her there was nothing to worry about, daddy's just excited.

This game truely was one for the ages. I think I'll watch it again.

I found this clip of the winner form someone in the crowd with an angle I'd never seen before from right behind Crosby.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Brothers for the Scoring Lead

After Wedsneday night's games Steven Stamkos is tied atop the NHL scoring race with Daniel Sedin at 78 points. Henrik Sedin is in third place with 73 points. If Daniel wins, it will of course be a first for brothers to win consecutive scoring titles. More impressively, they have a chance to also be the first brothers to finish first and second in one season.

As they sit now, first and third, they match the best ever one season brother combo of Max and Doug Bentley in 1942/43. Doug tallied 73 points to Max's 70. Only Bill Cowley and his 72 points prevented a Bentley sweep.

Following is a list of the top brother finishes throughout NHL history.

  • 1917/18 Cy Denneny 46 points, 2nd place & Corb Denneny 29 points, 5th place
  • 1932/33 Bill Cook 50 points, 2nd place & Bun Cook 37 points, 7th place
  • 1942/43 Doug Bentley 73 points, 1st place & Max Bentley 70 points, 3rd place
  • 1956/57 Maurice Richard 62 points, 6th place & Henri Richard 54 points, 9th place
  • 1968/69 Bobby Hull 107 points, 2nd place & Dennis Hull 64 points, 22nd place
  • 1982/83 Peter Stastny 124 points, 2nd place & Anton Stastny 92 points, 15th place
  • 1999/00 Pavel Bure 94 points, 2nd & Valeri Bure 75 points, 15th place

Finishing first and second for the Twins certainly would be an impressive feat but it looks like Mr. Stamkos will have something to say about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nikolai Kulemin, Longest serving Leaf

Nikolai Kulemin has played 210 career games for the Toronto Maple Leafs with Tomas Kaberle being traded, amazingly Kulemin is now the longest serving player with the franchise. The Leafs have never iced a team without having a player that had been with them for at least the four previous seasons. As they sit now, albeit with some better prospects and higher quality youth, the Leafs are akin to a third year expansion squad. It's as if they were granted an NHL franchise three years ago and started from scratch. By the power and vision of Brian Burke they have indeed cleaned the slate, the question is, will it work?

The last time Toronto had a team without a player of at least five years tenure was the end of 1996/97. On February 25, 1997 Doug Gilmour with just over five years Toronto experience and Dave Ellett with just over six years, were traded to New Jersey. This left Mats Sundin as the longest serving Leaf skater, much like Kulemin, just completing his third full season in Toronto. The difference then was goalie Felix Potvin was almost through his fifth full season in Toronto. As well, Toronto of late 96/97 still had Wendel Clark on his second stint in Toronto. Although only his first full year back in the fold it was his 11th Leaf season overall.

The season before, 1995/96, the team still had Todd Gill in his 10th full season with the club.
Toronto always had at least one guy with at least five years tenure prior to the mid 1990's. From Peter Ihnacak and Dan Daoust to Rick Vaive and Borje Salming. Before them Sittler, McDonald, Jim McKenney and Dave Keon, there was never a gap without a long-tenured Leaf player. Prior to that there was George Armstrong, Tim Horton, Ted Kennedy and Harry Watson.

In 1949/50 the Leafs had Bill Ezinicki in his fifth season as the longest serving skater but more than made up for it with goaltender Turk Broda who was in his twelfth full season. The season before there was Don Metz was in is fifth full year, but they still had Broda. One year before that was Syl Apps' last of ten full seasons.

In 1940/41 Nick Metz was in his seventh year and was the longest served Leaf, and 39/40 was Red Horner's last of 12 straight Leaf seasons. Before them there was Hap Day with 13 Toronto years dating back to the St.Patricks years.

So, the current Leaf team really is a rarity in franchise history. They are indeed on the same development level as a third year expansion squad. Whether or not this is the route to a successful future is still to be determined.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Game Report: Dec.31, 1949 Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

I starting looking at old programs last week, and what happened in the actual games in which they were issued. Today I look at a program from a game on New Years Eve, Dec. 31, 1949 when the Detroit Red Wings visited Maple Leaf Gardens. Pictured on the cover is Leaf centreman Cal Gardner. He was in the line up this evening just returning from a broken jaw suffered on November 10. Gardner would play a mere 31 games in 1949-50 yet still produced 26 points.

This Saturday night affair was the first of a home and home set between the Wings and Leafs. Detroit came into the game in first place with a record of 20-8-4. The Leafs meanwhile had one once and tied two in their last nine games. The Wings as somewhat expected beat Toronto 5-1 this evening then 5-0 the next night back home at The Olympia. They jumped out to a 2-0 before the game was seven minutes old before 12,985 at the Gardens. League point leader Ted Lindsay assisted on the first goal by Sid Abel and would add another helper on a Gordie Howe goal late in the third. Toronto points leader Max Bentley tallied their only goal with just over a minute left to break up the shutout of Harry Lumley.

When the dust settled after their weekend sweep, Detroit held a 13 point lead over second place Montreal and Toronto settled into fifth place. Ted Lindsay held a six point lead in the scoring race with 42 points, 6 more than teammate Abel.

By the end of the season Detroit had indeed held onto first place with 88 points , 11 more than Montreal and Toronto had climbed to third with a great second half record of 19-10-6. Lindsay retained his lead in the scoring race finishing with 78 points. Detroit and Toronto would meet in the first round and the series went the distance. The Wings bested the Leafs four games to three even though they were shutout three times by Turk Broda. In fact Broda would finish the seven games with a 1.33 GAA but the Leafs scored only 6 goals in the last 6 games after their 5-0 win in game one. Incidentally in this game, 21 year old Gordie Howe suffered a fractured skull in a collision with Ted Kennedy and would miss the rest of the playoffs.
The Wings went on to win the Cup over New York in game seven double overtime on a goal by Pete Babando. The Leafs would bounce back the next year to win their fourth Cup in five seasons.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Drew Stafford's Hat Collection

Buffalo's Drew Stafford has two hat tricks in his last three games and four total in the last two months. His four tricks are in a period of 21 games played and over that span he has 18 goals.
Four hat tricks over a two month period is ridiculously good but far from un-precedented. A look at some of the great goal scoring seasons of the last 30 years shows what kind of company Stafford is currently keeping.

In 1992/93 Teemu Selanne registered four hat tricks from Dec. 11 to March 9, almost three months. Alex Mogilny did even better than the Finnish Flash that year with four hatties from Dec 9 to Jan. 2, a total of only ten games. Mogilny fired 19 goals over that ten game stretch on his way to tying Selanne with 76.

During 1991/92, Brett Hull tore off four hat tricks between Dec. 12 and Jan 16, just over one month and 18 games. He would notch 23 goals during this stretch. Mario Lemieux had four hats from Feb. 14/89 through March 30/89, six weeks and 20 games in which he had 23 goals.

During Gretzky's 92 goal year of 81/82 he amazingly had two different stretches where he had four hat tricks in a 16 game period. Ending with five goals in the 50 goals in 39 games match, The Great One had fired 26 goals in 16 games. Three weeks later he started another span with four hats in 16 games from Jan.20 through Feb. 24, this time collecting 20 goals.

So, as hot as Stafford has been, Gretzky, Hull and Mogilny have collected hat tricks at faster paces in the past. Of course, they played in eras where goals were much more frequent. If Stafford were to fire two more hatties over the next six games, he could truely stand alone among the greats...not likely but I wouldn't put it past him.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Game Report: Dec.15, 1935 New York Americans v Chicago

Perusing the vintage hockey program listings on ebay (as I do on a fairly regular basis) I came across this 75 year old beauty. The description said it was from a game on December 15, 1935 and not much else. I wanted to dig deeper and find out what happened at Madison Square Garden that night.

It turns out that this game was the exact 10th anniversary of the Americans first home game at the Garden. They celebrated by shutting out the Chicago Black Hawks 3-0 in front of future Hall of Fame goaltender Roy "Shrimp" Worters. The Associated Press described the affair, "The Americans opened with a startling display of speed and agressiveness that threw the Hawks back on their heels." Indeed they came out fast and took the lead on an un-assisted mark by Sweeney Schriner. They led 2-0 at the end of one on a goal from Joe Jerwa with helpers from Nels Stewart and Harry Oliver.

"The second period was slow and scoreless, but the teams came back raging in the third, which was featured by a furious slugging match between Bill Brydge of the Amerks and Marty Burke of the Hawks." Oliver tallied halfway through the third with help from Stewart to close out the scoring.

The victory put New York one point out of first in the tight NHL's International Division, behind Toronto and one up on the Montreal Maroons. Their 5-6-2 record however would have placed them a distant fourth in the leagues' other division, the American. The Amerks would go 11-19-5 the rest of the season to finish 16-25-7 and 15 points behind the Maroons. They upset Chicago (which had 11 more regular season points) in the quarter-finals by 7-5 in the total goals round.
The Maple Leafs then dispatched New York two games to one in the Semis.

Sweeney Schriner ended up leading the NHL in points with 45, five more than Chicago's Paul Thompson and Marty Barry of Detroit. Schriner was also voted First Team All-Star left winger. 1935-36 was only the second time in eleven seasons that the Americans had made the post season and would remain the deepest they would ever get in the playoffs. The franchise would fold after six more seasons without getting any closer to the Stanley Cup than they did in this season of 1935/36.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sittler 10 points, 35 years ago.

35 years ago today, six goals and four assists. Nobody else has even scored nine in a game. Although on Jan. 30, 1973, Jim Harrison scored three goals, seven assists for the Alberta Oilers in the WHA. In the NHL, Gretzky had eight points twice, Lemieux had eight three times (once in the playoffs), Tom Bladon and Paul Coffey had eight points as defencemen. The Stastnys Peter and Anton had eight each, Patrik Sundstrom did it in the playoffs and Bernie Nicholls had eight in '88.

When Gretzky scored eight on Jan. 4, 1984 it was his second time in six weeks doing it. He actually had scored his eight points with two and a half minutes remaining in the second period, and still couldn't catch Sittler. It's been over 20 years since anyone has come close.

Going into the game against Boston on Feb. 7, 1976 Sittler was having a nice if unspectacular season with 21 goals, 32 assists and 53 points in 51 games. In his last three seasons he had notched 77, 84 and 80 points and was on the exact same pace in 75/76. This all changed that night in February. In the 11-4 Leaf victory, the only Toronto goal Sittler was not involved in was at 11:40 of the second when George Ferguson scored on assists from Scott Garland and Inge Hammarstrom. Borje Salming and Lanny McDonald would score 2 goals and 2 assists each, Errol Thompson had 3 helpers and for Boston, Jean Ratelle also had 2 goals, 2 assists and Bobby Schmautz had a goal and 3 helpers in completely overlooked performances.

It would take Sittler seven games to get his next ten points. Over his last 27 games after the ten-pointer he scored 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points, a point/game rate of 1.37. So, after being a point per game player up until then, after the ten point game Sittler would score 1.32 Pts/GP over his next five and a third seasons and 404 games through 1980/81. A true breakout game if there ever was one.

Incidentally, a month later when Toronto travelled to Boston they were beaten 6-2 by Gerry Cheevers. Sittler was indeed held pointless.

Friday, February 4, 2011

James Reimer and Leaf Rookie Goalies

Time to weigh in on the James Reimer phenomenon. The Leafs have rarely had a rookie goalie come out of nowhere to take the league by storm in the way a Sergei Bobrov, Semyon Varlamov, Jim Carey or Blaine Lacher did (remember Lacher?). In Reimer, perhaps they have a tender that will continue to make headlines and develop into real star unlike Carey and Lacher.

Toronto has developed very few goalies through their system over the years. The last real star goaltender the Leafs have developed internally was Felix Potvin back in the early 1990's. I wanted to look back at all the goalies who started their careers with Toronto and how their stats compared to Reimer over their first 8 decisions. All the guys listed below were younger than 25 and began their career with Toronto, some of these numbers are staggered over two different seasons. From most recent first (W-L-T, GAA, SAVE PCT.)

  • James Reimer 10/11 5-3-0, 1.96, .940
  • Jonas Gustavsson 09/10 3-2-3, 2.61, .916
  • Justin Pogge 08/09 1-4-1, 4.35, .844
  • Mikael Tellqvist 02/03 4-1-2, 1.80, .929
  • Marcel Cousineau 96/97 3-3-0, 2.81, .910
  • Damian Rhodes 91-93 6-1-1, 2.46, .906
  • Feliz Potvin 91-92 3-3-1, 2.27, .925
  • Peter Ing 90-91 1-4-0, 4.98, .875
  • Jeff Reese 88-89 2-3-2, 4.52, .858
  • Allan Bester 83/84 4-3-1, 4.03, .889
  • Ken Wregget 83-84 2-4-2, 5.32, .868
  • Vincent Tremblay 79-81 2-4-0, 5.59, .866
  • Mike Palmateer 76/77 5-2-1, 2.25, .930

Some great names from the past. Mikael Tellqvist never proved to be a number one goalie, and took his back-up skills to play in Finland. Damian Rhodes rode his hot start to over 300 career games also with Ottawa and Atlanta. After leading the NHL in losses in 90/91 Peter Ing was shipped to Edmonton with Vinny Damphousse and played only 15 more NHL games. Jeff Reese proved to be a serviceable back-up for over ten seasons and set the record with 3 assists in a game with Calgary. Ken Wregget would lead the league in losses in consecutive years with the Leafs, (they did that alot back then). Then went on to win a Cup with the Penguins. Vincent Tremblay parlayed his horrendous start into a 12-26-8 career record and 4.80 GAA and was out of hockey by age 26.
James Reimer's career start may be the best overall numbers since Mike Palmateer in 1976/77. The 'Popcorn Kid" finished third in the NHL in wins his second and third seasons. If Reimer came even remotely close to that the Leafs will be estatic...of course injuries forced Palmateer out of hockey before the age of 30. When it comes to young goalies, you just never know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jaromir Jagr, 1900 points

Jaromir Jagr is now the third highest scorer in worldwide top-level major league hockey. Currently in his third year with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, the soon to be 39 year old is having a fine season. He has 49 points in 47 games and sits eighth in league scoring. Combining his career NHL points of 1599 with his production in the Czech and Russian leagues he now has exactly 1900 points in his career.

Here are the top five in career points combining NHL, WHA and European professional circuits.
  1. Wayne Gretzky 2967
  2. Gordie Howe 2358
  3. Jaromir Jagr 1900
  4. Mark Messier 1898
  5. Bobby Hull 1808

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dan Hodgson, Once a prospect

With the Vancouver Canucks calling up prized prospect Cody Hodgson this week, I am reminded of a time long ago and another top prospect by the name of Hodgson. Dan Hodgson was only a 5th round draftee in 1983 by Toronto but it was after his draft that he developed into a real blue-chip prospect. While he had scored 130 points in his draft year with the Prince Albert Raiders, he exploded for back-to-back seasons of 181 and 182 points. He would play twice for Canada in the World Junior tourney and collected 14 points in 5 games at the 1985 Memorial Cup.

During his rookie pro season of 1985/86 Hodgson split time between the AHL's St. Catherines Saints and the big club. His season was late to start after a broken nose and cheekbone suffered in training camp. He had 29 points in 22 minor league games and a respectable 13 goals, 25 points in 40 games for the Leafs. Things were looking up for the youngster.

The next season, John Brophy took over the Leaf coaching reigns from Dan Maloney and brought a "defense first" style to the club. Dan Hodgson did not play Brophy's style and was dispatched to the farm team, now based in Newmarket. This is where I personally got to see him play in each and every home game. As the team-appointed video camera operator, I was able to immerse myself into watching the Maple Leaf up-and-comers. Hodgson certainly impressed my young eyes, and I was bewildered when on Dec. 2, 1986 when I arrived in the press-box for work to find out Hodgson had been traded. He and fellow Brophy outcast Jim Benning had been dealt to Vancouver for defenseman Rick Lanz.

"Jim and I were doing cartwheels in the Newmarket dressing room, we were so happy about the deal," Hodgson told the Canadian Press after the trade. He added, "My style didn't fit in with his (Brophy's) ideas, especially after Ken Yaremchuk and Mike Allison came to Toronto in trades. Personally, I don't think I got a fair shake." His new coach, Canucks Tom Watt said, "Hodgson is tricky with the biscuit and has nice hands." He would definitely get a 'fair shake' on the West coast.

He played the remainder of the season with Vancouver and put up similar numbers to his rookie campaign with 22 points in 43 games. He began the next year 87/88 by tearing up the AHL with the Fredricton Express with 26 points in 13 games. He continued his hot pace with the Canucks and produced 10 points in his first 4 games including a 5 point night against Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. Unfortunately for Hodgson, his season came to an abrupt end a few weeks later on Nov.25 when he broke his left leg in a collision with Calgary's Brad McCrimmon.

1988/89 saw Hodgson once again ripping up the minors with 82 points in 47 games with the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals. During two different stints with Vancouver he scored 17 points in 23 games. That would however be the end of Hodgson's NHL career at age 23. He played the next 15 seasons in various leagues in Austria, Germany and mainly Switzerland. He retired in 2005 at the age of 39 after more than 500 games in Europe and 74 points in 114 NHL games.

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