Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bruins and Canucks, These guys played for both.

Cam Neely for Barry Pederson. June 6, 1986. Easily the most well-known and important transaction ever made between this year's Stanley Cup finalists. Somewhat surprisingly, a fairly good team can be made from players that have played for both Boston and Vancouver.

Barry Pederson. After more than four years in Boston with 92, 107 and 116 point seasons he had seasons of 76 and 71 points with the Canucks before injuries took hold.

Tomas Gradin. Signed as a free-agent with Boston after eight solid seasons on the West coast, he notched 43 points in 64 games his only year as a Bruin.

Peter McNab. Starred for over seven years with Boston, scoring from 74 to 86 points for seven years straight, spent just over a season in Van City, scoring 23 goals in 84/85.

Chris Oddleifson. Traded in March of 1974 from the Bruins for Bobby Schmautz, he went on to have six solid years with the Canucks.

Right Wing
Cam Neely. Three years with Vancouver, topping out at 21 goals went on to a Hall of Fame career in Boston.

Bobby Schmautz. Almost three full years with the Nucks including 38 goals in 72/73, Schmautzie then played over five years with the B's.

Left Wing
Geoff Courtnall. Started his career with four seasons in Boston and had 32 goals when traded to Edmonton in March of '88. Picked up for the stretch drive in 1991 by Vancouver, had four good years with Vancouver topping out at 31 goals in 92/93.

Doug Halward. Began his career with parts of three years in Boston. Five seasons with the Canucks including a 52 point year in 82/83.

Greg Hawgood. Another Bruin draftee had two full years in Boston as well as a 22 point season in Vancouver.

Jiri Slegr. Vancouver draft pick had 26 and 38 points to start his career. Finished up with Boston ten years later for a pair of seasons.

Andrew Alberts. Current Canuck and Bruin draft pick in 2001.

Andrew Raycroft. Calder Trophy winner with Boston, was back-up last year for the Canucks.

Alex Auld. 67 game, 33 win year for Vancouver in 05/06 and finished 07/08 with 23 games in Boston.

Peter Skudra. 25 games with Boston in 2000/01, then signed as a free agent with Vancouver playing 23 games each of the next two seasons.

On a similar theme, with Winnipeg in the news today I wondered how many players had played for all three of Vancouver, Boston and the Jets. The ones I could find are:

Bill Derlago. Drafted 4th overall by Vancouver and played 63 total games before going to Toronto. Would play 39 games with Boston in 1986 and 30 games with Winnipeg in 1987.

Petri Skriko. Another Canuck draft pick, starred over six years in Vancouver before being traded for Boston's 2nd round pick in 1992 which became Mike Peca. Was a Bruin for only 37 games before being traded to Winnipeg for Brent Ashton. Lasted only 15 games with the Jets.

Jim Nill. Two and a half years with the Canucks went to Boston for McNab. One year and a day later was traded to Winnipeg for Morris Lukowich where he played three seasons.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's leave Kerry Fraser alone, blame Bob McKenzie.

May 27, 1993. This is NOT the date the Toronto Maple Leafs were denied a Stanley Cup appearance. I'm an acknowledged Leaf fan, not your average "asshole" Leaf fan, I'm a diehard, all-encompassing, 365 days a year Leaf fan (I know...it's a disease for which there is no cure).
Even I can now say, it's time to stop blaming Kerry Fraser.

As all good hockey fans know, the play in question happened in overtime of game six of the '93 Western Confernce Finals with Toronto ahead 3 games to 2. In the first minute of OT, Wayne Gretzky's follow-through on a shot clipped Doug Gilmour. Even though Gilmour was bleeding and would require eight stitches, there was no penalty on the play. Fraser claimed he was blocked out of view of what happened and so were his linesmen. He recalls asking Gilmour at the moment what had happened, Gilmour said he was hit with Gretzky's follow-through. This fact of course makes the criticism of Fraser missing the call a moot point. A high-stick on a follow-through of a shot is not a punishable offense. As much as us Leaf fans would like to say Gretzky should have received a five minute penalty and be tossed from the game...even if Fraser fully saw the play, there was no penalty to be called.

The fact that Gretzky scored the OT winner a minute later only adds salt to the wound. On top of this, Toronto still had a Game Seven at home a game in which the were almost single-handedly beaten by Gretzky who scored a hat-trick and an assist. Wayne himself calls game seven the best game he ever played in his NHL career. If Leaf fans really want to find a villain it's Bob McKenzie.

A day before the infamous game six, McKenzie, who wrote for the Toronto Star penned an article with the headline; "Gretzky playing as if he's got a piano on his back."
The article stated, "The plain truth is Gretzky hasn't been much, if any better through this series. Luc Robitaille, for that matter showed the most signs last night of maybe being ready to break out, picking up one assist and generating four shots on goal. Now just one loss away from elimination, the Kings could desperately use some old-fashioned Gretzky pyrotechnics to light up the Leafs in Game 6 at the Great Western Forum and send it back here for Game 7 at the Gardens on Saturday night."

And those "Gretzky pyrotechnics" did return with his game six overtime winner. The Great One was far from done yet as illustrated in an article by Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times.
"Saturday afternoon before Game 7 of the finals, [Wayne Gretzky] was finishing a cup of tea before heading to Maple Leaf Gardens. He looked across the table at his agent, Mike Barnett, and said: "The piano man still has a tune to play."

After his game seven performance which led the Kings to the Cup final, Rick Sandowski of the LA Times wrote," The Kings ought to send a thank you card to columnist Bob McKenzie, who after Game 5 of the Campbell Conference final wrote that Wayne Gretzky was playing" like he has piano on his back" Gretzky responded by scoring in overtime to give the Kings a 5-4 win in game 6 and leading them to Saturday's win with three goals and an assist. "It really motivated me, " Gretzky said Sunday. "I was disappointed that he had only seen me play one game out of 17. (The article) fueled the fire. It made me mad."

Clearly, Gretzky was fired up by the comments of McKenzie. Motivated enough to play the best game of his NHL career.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Most Far-flung Stanley Cup Finals

I had a question posed to me by Bidzy, my beer-league left winger (yes, it's Nitzy and Bidzy). He wondered what was the most distance between two cities ever in a Stanley Cup final. This of course stems from the current season, and the certainty that no matter which teams win the semi-finals, there will be alot of travelling mileage.
The following are the Stanley Cup final series that matched teams the farthest apart, as the crow flies. I am including all Stanley Cup Finals and Challenges.

Dawson City Nuggets vs. Ottawa HC, 1905: 4351km
Los Angeles Kings vs. Montreal Canadiens, 1993: 3973 km
Vancouver Canucks vs. New York Islanders, 1982: 3937 km
Vancouver Canucks vs. New York Rangers, 1994: 3907 km
Anaheim Ducks vs. New Jersey Devils,2003: 3906 km
Portland Rosebuds vs. Montreal Canadiens, 1916: 3771 km
Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators, 2007: 3771 km
Victoria Cougars vs. Montreal Maroons, 1926: 3732 km
Victoria Cougars vs. Montreal Canadiens, 1925: 3732 km
Calgary Flames vs.Tampa Bay Lightning, 2004: 3687 km
Seattle Metropolitans vs. Montreal Canadiens, 1917: 3680 km
Vancouver Millionaires vs. Ottawa Senators, 1915: 3554 km

The possible Cup Finals for 2011:
San Jose vs. Boston, 4316 km
Vancouver vs. Tampa Bay, 4187 km
Vancouver vs. Boston, 4027 km
San Jose vs. Tampa Bay, 3812 km

On the other end of the scale are the Cup Finals between cities that are the closest to each other.

Ottawa HC vs. Smiths Falls HC, 1906: 62 km
New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 1980: 162 km
Montreal Wanderers vs Ottawa HC, 1904: 168 km
Montreal Wanderers vs. Ottawa HC, 1906: 168 km
Montreal Wanderers vs. Ottawa Victorias, 1908: 168 km
Boston vs. New York Rangers, 1972: 303 km
Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, multiple times: 333 km

Sunday, May 22, 2011

17 Years ago today in Canucks (and Leafs) history.

May 22. Game Four of the Western Conference Final. Canucks leading two games to one. No, not today, we're talking 1994. The Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs were battling for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

After over 57 minutes of scoreless play in game four, Cliff Ronning finally beat Felix Potvin. In the Toronto Star the next day, Damien Cox described the winning goal,"Ronning skipped past Dmitri Mironov just inside the Toronto blueline, dumped the puck off to Sergio Momesso, then simply skated past an inattentive Rob Pearson towards the net." Ronning took the return pass from Momesso and beat Potvin for the winner.

"Serg and I like the give-and-go game," Ronning explained. "We're definitely not superstars on our line. We work hard whenever we get out there." Leaf coach Pat Burns added, "Cliff Ronning found a little opening and that ended it. There wasn't much room out there and whoever found the opening won it. they got one good one and put it away".

Pavel Bure added an empty-netter to seal the 2-0 win. Both goalies were solid, but McLean had to be sharper over the course of the game. He was tested in the second minute when Chris Govedaris broke in from the right boards, but easily handled the shot (probably because it was from Chris Govedaris). In the second period Mike Krushelnyski and Bill Berg both shot wide on scoring chances while killing penalties.

Vancouver would of course wrap up the series the following game with double overtime, 4-3 winner off the stick of Greg Adams...a game which I had the nonpleasure of attending.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winnipeg Jets, 1979 Champs

From the files of the Canadian Press, May 21, 1979

Winnipeg Jets were in their glory Sunday night after knocking off Edmonton Oilers 7-3 in the sixth game of the World Hockey Association Championship to win the Avco Cup. The Jets accomplished the feat before a home crowd of 10,195 screaming, clapping, horn-blowing fans who had given the team the same emotional boost when they swept a four game semi-final series with Quebec Nordiques.

As the final whistle sounded Sunday, giving the Jets the best-of-seven final series four games to two and marking the end of the WHA, the fans poured adulation on their heroes and some of the men who founded the league and struggled with it for seven years. Ben Hatskin, who was instrumental in luring former National Hockey League star Bobby Hull to Winnipeg in 1972, got a rousing cheer when he was called to centre ice to stand next to the Cup.

"I know the Jets will keep this (the trophy) in a safe spot to remember the WHA, which did a great thing for a lot of people in hockey," said a jubilant Hatskin. The Cup will be the permanent property of the Jets who are joining the NHL this summer along with Edmonton, Quebec and New England Whalers. At the same time, the WHA will fold.

Rich Preston, who was named most valuable player of the playoffs, grabbed the microphone at centre ice and gave all the fans a message from the players. "When I came here and saw all you fans, I felt like crying," he shouted to them. "You are so great. We love you." The Jets won a WHA title for each of the three coaches they had over seven years-Bobby Kromm in 1975, Larry Hillman in 1978 and Tom McVie this year. McVie came to the team during it's late February slump. His arrival, along with that of goaltender Gary Smith and the return of captain Lars-Erik Sjoberg, resulted in one of the most exciting turnarounds in WHA history.

The big gun was Terry Ruskowski, who missed game five with a severe shoulder injury. He picked up four assists, including one on each of the Jets first two goals. Willy Lindstrom and Barry Long scored two goals each for the Jets. Lyle Moffat, Kent Nilsson and Paul MacKinnon had singles while Morris Lukowich had three assists.

Ron Chipperfield, Bill Flett and Dave Semenko scored for Edmonton. Smith played strongly as Winnipeg outshot Edmonton 33-30. Dave Dryden started in the nets for the Oilers but was replaced by Ed Mio after Winnipegs' fifth goal, late in the second period. While Ruskowski was getting much of the praise in the Jets' dressing room, the losers' dressing room was a scene of beer and tears. A downcast Peter Pocklington, the team owner, met briefly with his players before crossing the ice, beer in hand to watch the wild champagne party in Jets' quarters.

"It's too bad, I hate losing," said Pocklington. He said even the fact the Oilers are bound for a better life in the NHL next season didn't take the sting out of the loss. Oilers' sensational rookie Wayne Gretzky had a frustrating night trying to put the puck in the net. Oilers were also hurt by the absence of forward Dennis Sobchuk, who spent most of the day in hospital for suspected food poisoning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tyler Seguin and Teenage Playoff Scoring

Tyler Seguin with 6 points in his first two career playoff games as a teenager is now in very select company with one Dale Hawerchuk. In Winnipeg's first two playoff games on April 7 and 8, 1982 against St.Louis, Hawerchuk also scored 6 points.

At 19 years, 4 days old Hawerchuk scored his first playoff goal 15:20 into the first period, beating Mike Liut on assists by Paul MacLean and Moe Mantha. In the third period he assisted on a goal by Willy Lindstrom as the Blues beat the Jets 4-3. The following day Hawerchuk notched four assists on goals by Dave Babych, Norm Dupont and two by Paul MacLean. Hawerchuk finished the series with 8 points in the 4 game loss to St.Louis.

Ray Bourque also tallied 6 points (1 goal and 5 assists) over two games April 13 & 14, 1980 vs. Pittsburgh. These were his fourth and fifth career playoff games. He was aged 19 years, 3 months at the time.

Two other teenagers have scored 5 points over 2 playoff matches:

Rod Brind'Amour, St.Louis April 18 & 20, 1990 vs. Chicago
Scored two goals and three assists in the first two games of the second round at the age of 19 years, 9 months.

Brent Sutter, New York Islanders April 7 & 8, 1982 vs. Pittsburgh
Two goals, three assists in his first two ever playoff games at age 19 years, 10 months.

A few other teenage scoring feats in playoff history.

The last three teenagers to score four points in a playoff game are:

Trevor Linden, Vancouver (1G-3A, April 9, 1989 at age 18 years, 363 days)

Pierre Turgeon, Buffalo (2G-2A, April 10, 1988 at age 18 years, 226 days)

Peter Zezel, Philadelphia (1G-3A, April 13, 1985 at age 19 years, 356 days)

Toronto's Wendel Clark scored a goal in each of his first four career playoff games. From April 9 through April 18, 1986 he scored each game against St.Louis. Clark was 19 years, 6 months old at the time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Greatest Playoff Performer in NHL History

When the question of which player is the greatest playoff performer in NHL history is raised, there really are only a few names that can be seriously mentioned. The obvious names would come up like Gretzky, Messier, Lemieux, Orr, Howe, Beliveau or Richard. Some would say it has be a goaltender, Roy, Brodeur, Plante or Dryden. The real question is by what method are we able to rank these players and their playoff performance throughout their careers.

One large factor I like to look at is if the player produces at a higher rate during the post-season than they do during the regular season, and if so by how much. The number of Stanley Cups a player has won should also go a long way in determining a great playoff performer. As well, leading the playoffs in a major statistical category will aid in determining playoff greatness. These three elements encompass team success as well as individual success in the post-season. I believe I've devised a simple system that is able to quantify these factors.

Firstly, comparing playoff production to regular season is a good way to eliminate discrepancies in scoring rates throughout the eras. A player's playoff scoring is easily compared to his regular season scoring. I decided to use a player’s goal scoring rates to figure out a Playoff Performance Number. I use goals instead of points because in my opinion, the importance of scoring goals is magnified in the playoffs and is a fine measuring stick of playoff greatness.
Using Jean Beliveau as an example:

Career Playoff Goals/Game 0.488
Career Regular Season Goals/Game 0.451

Divide the regular into the playoffs and we get 1.08. Beliveau was 8% better in the playoffs, which may not seem too high, but as we'll see, that's a fairly impressive number over an entire career. I translate the 1.08 to a scale out of 100. A rating of 100 even would represent a player scoring playoff goals at the exact same rate as in regular season. For example, Beliveau’s 1.08 gives him a 108. Wayne Gretzky scored 0.607 Goals/Game in his regular season career and 0.587 over his playoff career, therefore he scored goals at a rate of 0.98 compared to regular season, a slight drop-off. Gretzky starts with a 98 as a Playoff Performance Number before we look at the other factors. I believe looking at Goal Rates still works for defensemen because even if not league leading, if their goal scoring rate is far superior in the playoffs they’ll be rewarded accordingly.

The next step is accounting for how many Cups a player won and how many times he led the playoffs in goals and/or points (for defensemen I used assists here as well as goals and points.) I assign 4 points to each of these that occur after 1967 expansion, 3 points for each Cup and league lead of goals and points pre-expansion. I do this simply because winning a Cup or leading the league with 12, 21 or 30 teams in the NHL should be worth more than when there was only 6 teams. I won’t use Conn Smythe Trophy wins in the equation, as it wasn’t given out until 1965. Going back to Beliveau, he won 7 Cups pre-expansion, and 3 after for a total of 33 points, he also led in goals and points once each pre-1967 for 6 more points. His overall PPN (Playoff Performance Number) is (108+33+6) for 147.

For Gretzky we add his 44 points (4 Cups x 4 and 7 Goals/Points Leads x 4) to his 98 for a PPN of 142. I think it’s safe to say that so far, having Beliveau ranked just slightly ahead of Gretzky as a playoff performer seems about right. Let’s see how they rank against the other greats. I don’t have time to check every player to ever skate in the playoffs so I limited it to players that at first glance one may think of as among the great playoff performers of all-time.

I set a minimum of 100 career playoff games (50 for pre-expansion) as well as having won at the very least one Stanley Cup. In my opinion there’s no way you could be considered the greatest playoff performer ever if you haven't won a Cup. The rankings are as follows, listed by Playoff Performance Number.

Maurice Richard 159
Jean Beliveau 147
Jari Kurri 146
Mark Messier 145
Wayne Gretzky 142
Niklas Lidstrom 140
Ted Kennedy 136
Gordie Howe 136
Peter Forsberg 136
Yvan Cournoyer 136
Henrik Zetterberg 133
Joe Sakic 132
Bernie Geoffiron 132
Guy Lafleur 131
Claude Lemieux 130
Henri Richard 129
Denis Potvin 126
Dave Keon 124
Larry Robinson 123
Paul Coffey 123
Dickie Moore 122
Ted Lindsay 120
Mike Bossy 118
Phil Esposito 116
Mario Lemieux 114
Bryan Trottier 114
Bobby Hull 109
Bobby Orr 105
Steve Yzerman 94

Well, there you have it. Maurice Richard is far and away the Greatest Playoff Performer in NHL history on the strength of raising his goal production by 11%, 9 Cup wins and 7 times leading the playoffs in goals or points. Jari Kurri at third spot over Messier, and Gretzky may come as a bit of a surprise, but he did win 5 Cups and led the league in goals 4 times. Messier fulfills his reputation as a playoff stud despite having led the league only once in points in ’90, he also won 6 Cups and raised his goal rate by an amazing 17% in his playoff career. Claude Lemieux may also surprise here, but he raised his goal rate by 10% in the post-season, won 3 Cups and led in goals twice.

I have absolutely no problem with Nik Lidstrom rated as the top playoff performer among defenseman. Not only has he won 4 Cups, his goal rate goes up 24% in the post-season. Peter Forsberg and Henrik Zetterberg both rate highly due to each bettering their goal production by 20 and 21% respectively in the playoffs. Guys near the bottom of the list are hurt by their drop in scoring rates from regular season to playoffs and in Orr, Esposito and Lemieux’s cases also by the fact they won the Cup only twice. Yzerman and Trottier’s goal rate in playoffs was each only 78% of what it was during their regular season careers.

Now, for the goalies.

Using the same system, I compare each career playoff GAA to career regular season. Cups are counted the same, and for individual stats I count only leading the playoffs in GAA as leading in Wins tends to go hand-in hand with a goalie who wins the Cup. Therefore to avoid redundancy I wont use Wins as a measure. Following are the players that I would consider for best playoff goalie all-time, in order of Playoff Performance Number.

Turk Broda 155
Jacques Plante 147
Billy Smith 140
Grant Fuhr 140
Patrick Roy 138
Martin Brodeur 135
Ken Dryden 129
Bill Durnan 129
Bernie Parent 125
Johnny Bower 123
Terry Sawchuk 120

Turk Broda, Greatest Playoff Goalie Ever…that even caught me (the Leaf fan) off guard. The numbers tend to back it up though. He won 5 Cups and led in GAA on 4 occasions. His career playoff average of 1.98 is a whopping 28% better than his regular season GAA of 2.51. Grant Fuhr and Billy Smith’s is each 16% better and Plante’s 11% better than his regular average. As good as Roy was, his performance raised only 10% in the playoffs, less than Smith’s and far below Broda’s. Sawchuk's GAA in the playoffs is slightly higher than his regular season and Ken Dryden in fact had a GAA 7% worse in the playoffs, but did win the Cup 6 times and led in GAA 3 times.

Admittedly, I could use many more factors in this system, but I feel it gives a nice numerical rating of playoff greatness and is good starting point for the discussion of playoff greats. That being said, I’m very comfortable with calling Maurice Richard the greatest Playoff performer in NHL history.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Playoff Winning Streaks

The Tampa Bay Lightning have now won eight consecutive playoff games in 2011 and are three away from the all-time record of eleven straight playoff wins. Over the stretch, Tampa have out-scored their opposition by a 33-17 margin. A look at the teams that have won 10 and 11 straight matches:

  1. Montreal, 1993. 11 consecutive wins. After dropping the first two playoff games of 1993 to Quebec, The Habs reeled off 11 in a row. They pushed aside the Nords, swept Buffalo and went up three games to none on the Islanders before losing. Over their streak they scored 42 goals and surrendered 26 as well, seven of the eleven victories were in overtime. The Habs of course won the Cup over Los Angeles that year and after losing their first two games went 16-2 the rest of the way.

  2. Pittsburgh, 1992. 11 consecutive wins. The Penguins run came later in the playoffs and carried them all the way to the Cup win, they also snuffed out Chicago's own 11 game streak in the first game of the finals. Down three games to one to the Rangers in the Patrick Division finals, Pittsburgh won the last three to take the series. They then swept Boston in the Semi-Finals before sweeping Chicago to take the Cup. The Pens just about doubled their opponents in goals scoring 47 and giving up 24.

  3. Chicago, 1992. 11 consecutive wins. The Hawks were down two games to one to St.Louis in the opening round of the playoffs before winning three in a row, then sweeping Detroit and Edmonton to reach the finals. Game one of the final pitted a team on an 11 game streak in Chicago against a team on a 7 game streak in Pittsburgh. The Pens quickly burst Chicago's bubble. The Hawks destroyed their opponents by a cumulative score of 45-22 over their 11 game streak.

  4. Boston, 1970. 10 consecutive wins. In the first round, Boston was tied two games apiece with the Rangers before winning the next ten games to take the Cup. The B's swept Chicago to reach the final and swept St.Louis to cap their run in which they outscored opponents by a ridiculous 47-20.

Three of the four teams to win at least 10 straight playoff games in a year also won the Cup. If Tampa manages to get to 10 this year they should very well at least have a chance to play for the Cup.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Merlyn Phillips, NHL Playoff Goal Leader of 1926

Name some of the players over history to have led the NHL in playoff goals over the years, most likely it was a star like Gretzky, Lemieux, Kurri, Bossy, Lafleur to Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe and The Rocket. One gentleman who led the league in playoff goals was far less well known. In 1926, Merlyn "Bill" Phillips of the Stanley Cup champion Montreal Maroons led the NHL with 3 goals in 4 games.

Merlyn Phillips was a 26 year old rookie in 1926 and was only called up to the Maroons with 12 games remaining in the season, but he made quite an early impact with the media and fans. He had spent the previous seven seasons playing Senior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds where he played in three Allan Cups. Prior to making the big club in 1926, Phillips had 9 goals in 20 games that season with the Soo. His introduction to professional hockey was chronicled by the Montreal Gazette starting on Feb. 18, 1926.

"Montreal will have Bill Phillips, former Soo Greyhound centre as a substitute tonight.
Phillips signed with the Maroons Tuesday afternoon...Phillips is a speedy skater, and is finished in style. He possesses a fair right-handed shot, and can be used at either centre or right wing."

Phillips failed to produce a point in that first game, but the next day's Gazette saw potential in his play. "Phillips' showing was closely watched in his first appearance in pro company. He made a favorable first impression...He plays an easy, finished style of hockey similar to Nelson Stewart, whom he under-studies....But the general first impression of the fans was that he would do. He works well in combination plays, passing unselfishly."

So, he's compared to the Maroons best player, Nels Stewart and the fans say "he would do". I love reading accounts of old time hockey when "combination play" is referred to. In current terminology, they're talking about simple passing plays, perhaps the odd give and go. Solo dashes were far more prevelant back in those days and successful passing plays were celebrated by the hockey watchers.

It took Merlyn Phillips a few weeks to become fully comfortable with the pro game and he finally hit his stride on March 11 against the New York Americans. The Gazette sports section featured a headline, "Phillips Starred as Montreal Beat New York Team 5-1". The accompanying article proclaimed, "Phillips flashed about the ice with easy strides, but with dazzling stickhandling efforts, and finally was rewarded by a goal scored on a lone effort, in which he went from end to end, lost the puck once, regained it from Randall and circled the American net to put the Maroons in the lead. Within three minutes he had put the Maroons two up by a swift move on a back pass from Broadbent. Thereafter he alternated in offensive and defensive play with much of the smoothness and cunning generally shown by Nelson Stewart, the Maroon's regular mid-ice player. Phillips poke-check was effective at all times, and he was on every loose puck. His work earned him loud acclaim, and at the end he was roundly cheered as he left the ice."

Once again his play is compared to Nels Stewart, and specific reference is made to his abilty to poke-check, a skill I thought more of as a goaltending skill. It's nice to see that 85 years ago writers and fans were sophisticated enough to recognize and applaud fine defensive play as well as offensive.

Two days later, Phillips was at it once again. "Following his excellent performance against New York, Phillips was equally effective against Canadiens. There were those who felt that the former Soo Greyhound had not met much opposition against the Americans and they wanted to see him pitted against rugged opposition. Opposed to Canadiens they saw him play even smarter hockey than against New York. He had speed, back-checked, poke-checked, scored once, made the opening for a second tally and incessantly started passing bouts with his teammates. He was pitted against Pete Lepine the latter another sub-player who is finished in his style. The result was a pleasing duel between these two clean-playing young stars, which provided one of the treats of the otherwise none too pleasant fray."

Once again, Phillips' defensive play is commended as well as his ability at the passing game. On the strength of those last two games Phillips finished the regular campaign with 3 goals and an assist over 12 games.

In the playoffs, Montreal met the Pittsburgh Pirates in a two game total goal series. The first game was won 3-1 by the Maroons with Phillips notching a goal. "Phillip's registered Maroon's third goal on a dazzling individual rush. He checked Conacher in the free zone and went worming through zigzag fashion to slam in a back-hander." Game two finished tied 3-3, giving Montreal the series win. Merlyn Phillips excelled once again for the Maroons. "Little more than five minutes after the start of the game Phillips cleared the puck from near the Montreal net. He swept down the left boards and circled Roger Smith at the Pirate defense. Close in on Worters, Phillips drove a back-handed shot at which he is an adept. Worters deflected the disc, but could not clear it fast enough. Phillips was down like a hawk and jammed the the rubber into the mesh."

Phillips "went worming through zigzag fashion". They just don't write like that anymore. Without the benefit of tevelvision broadcasts and video highlights, writers had to be far more descriptive and paint a visual image for the reader. Apparently Phillips had a nice little back-hand as well.

Phillips play at centre was solid enough to allow Maroon coach Eddie Gerard to play Nels Stewart on defense. Ths continued into the final round against the favoured Ottawa Senators. In game one, King Clancy tied the game up on a shorthanded goal with ten seconds remaining. The Gazette reported, "Stewart was on the defense and Phillips was at centre. The arrangement worked well and the Montrealers showed no signs of cracking under the strain of the heavy programme they have faced the past three weeks. Phillips was perhaps a little slow to find his feet. It was his first real test in a hard, gruelling match. But the former Soo amateur soon struck his stride and engaged in a pleasing duel with Frank Nighbor around centre ice. Phillips back-handed shot was always a threat to Ottawa."

Another reference to his proficiency with the back-hander. Another thing we don't see much any more is a "pleasing duel" between two players throughout a game. The Maroons managed to beat the Senators 1-0 in game two to take the series. Babe Seibert scored the only marker in the second and once again, Merlyn Phillips was one of the better players on the ice.

"Bill Phillips, who has been the sensation in the Maroon camp since he joined pro company one month ago after a Meteoric career with the Soo Greyhounds, was the bright performer for the Maroons. Phillips paved the way for Seibert's goal. He poked Frank Nighbor out of action and offensively was the pivot of many Maroon attacks. But it was Phillips' courage under a heavy gruelling which brought him the greatest commendation. He was a target throughout the game. He stood his bumps gamely and came back for more. In the second period he was knocked dizzy by a clout from Finnegan. He was relieved, but back in action within five minutes."

This pretty much sums up Merlyn Phllips and his rise from Senior hockey to a contributing regular in the pros. A hard working, playmaking, defense first centreman. His three goals in the NHL playoffs were one more than teammate Punch Broadbent. Nels Stewart was held to two assists, but he would erupt for six goals in four games in the Stanley Cup challenge against the
Victoria Cougars of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Phillips notched a goal and an assist against Victoria, but the NHL record book counts only games versus NHL teams and has him as the goal leader in the 1926 NHL playoffs.

Phillips would go on to play six full seasons with the Maroons and finished two goals behind Nels Stewart for the team lead in 1926/27. He finished up with the New York Americans in 1932/33 and retired after 302 NHL games and 52 goals.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Most Points, One Playoff Series

In honour of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler tallying 11 points during their six game victory over Nashville, we look at the players with highest scoring single playoff series in NHL history.

1. Rick Middleton, Boston 19 Points. 1983 division finals vs. Buffalo

Game 1 2a
Game 2 1g, 2a
Game 3 2a
Game 4 2g, 4a
Game 5 2g, 2a
Game 6 0
Game 7 2a

Total goals by Boston in series, 33. Middleton was in on 57.6% of team scoring.

2. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton, 18 Points. 1985 conference final vs. Chicago

Game 1 1g, 3a
Game 2 3a
Game 3 0
Game 4 1g, 2a
Game 5 2g, 2a
Game 6 4a

Total goals by Edmonton in series, 44. Gretzky was in on 40.9% of team scoring.

3. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh 17 Points. 1992 division semi-finals vs. Washington

Game 1 DNP
Game 2 2a
Game 3 3g, 3a
Game 4 1g
Game 5 1a
Game 6 2g, 3a
Game 7 1g, 1a

Total goals by Pittsburgh in series, 25 (24 in the 6 games Lemieux played). Lemieux was in on 70.8% of team scoring.

4. Doug Gilmour, Toronto, 16 Points. 1994 conference semi-final vs. San Jose

Game 1 1A
Game 2 1g, 2a
Game 3 2a
Game 4 1g, 4a
Game 5 2a
Game 6 2a
Game 7 1g

Total goals by Toronto in series, 26. Gilmour was in on 61.5% of team scoring.

4. Barry Pederson, Boston, 16 Points. 1983 division finals vs. Buffalo

Game 1 1g
Game 2 3a
Game 3 1g
Game 4 2g, 3a
Game 5 2g, 2a
Game 6 0
Game 7 1g, 1a

Total goals by Boston in series, 33. Pederson was in on 48.5% of team scoring.

Although Kesler's 11 points last series falls far short of the above performances, his squad managed to score a mere 14 total goals in the series. Kesler had a hand in an amazing 78.6% of Canuck scoring last round. This has to be one of the more impressive single round efforts of all time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sean Bergenheim; John Druce of 2011

Over the course of NHL playoff history, various players have stepped up their production to an unprecedented level over previous norms. Perhaps the greatest example would be Washington Capital, John Druce in 1990. After scoring 8 goals in 45 games and 8 goals in 48 games the year before, Druce exploded for 14 goals in 15 playoff games. He would parlay his playoff run to a 22 goal season in 1991, but never scored 20 again. John Druce would score a mere 3 additional goals in 37 more career playoff matches.

This season, Sean Begenheim scored 14 goals in 80 games for Tampa Bay but has now tallied 7 in 11 playoff games. In his other three career seasons, Bergenheim has colected 10, 15 and 10 goals. Some of the other great "John Druce Playoffs" are as follows:

  • 2006, Fernando Pisani, Edmonton. After scoring 18 goals in 80 games, Pisani conted 14 goals in 24 games to lead the playoffs. In 194 games since, he has scored 44 goals.

  • 2004, Ruslan Fedotenko, Tampa Bay. His 12 goals in 22 playoff games finished one behind league leader Jarome Iginla. Fedotenko had previously had seasons of 16, 17 and 19 goals.

  • 1996, Dave Lowry, Florida. Lowry matched his 10 regular season goals scored over 63 games in only 22 playof games.

  • 1989, Chris Kontos, Los Angeles. He played only 7 regular season games with the Kings scoring twice, and only scored 10 in 42 AHL games with New Haven. Kontos erupted for 9 markers in 11 playoff games.

  • 1984, Pat Flatley, New York Islanders. He scored an impressive 34 in 64 games this season with the Canadian National team, yet had only 2 in 16 late season games with the Isles. The 20 year old rookie potted 9 in 21 playoff matches.

  • 1968, Milan Marcetta, Minnesota North Stars. After getting into three playoff games for the Maple Leafs the previous year, the 31 year-old expansion draftee/rookie would score only 4 goals in 36 games. Marcetta however, had 7 in 14 playoff games only one behind co-leaders and teammates Bill Goldsworthy and Wayne Connelly.

  • 1963, Alex Faulkner, Detroit Red Wings. He potted 5 goals in only 8 post-season games after having 10 in 70 during the regular campaign.

  • 1959, Marcel Bonin, Montreal Canadiens. Bonin led the playoffs by a wide margin with 10 goals in 11 games. He had collected 13 in 57 games that season and never had more than 17 in any year. Over his other 39 career playoff matched Bonin would tally one goal.

  • 1955, Floyd Curry, Montreal Canadiens. He finished one behind leader Gordie Howe with 8 goals in 12 playoff games after having only 11 in 68 regular season games.

  • 1953, Ed Sandford, Boston Bruins. He led the playoffs with 8 goals in 11 matches after scoring 14 in 61 games during the season. He had one more than Maurice Richard and two more than Bernie Geoffrion.

  • 1940, Hank Goldup, Toronto Maple Leafs. After scoring a fairly respectable 6 goals in 21 games during his rookie season, Goldup led the post-season with 5 goals in 10 games. He never scored another playoff goal in 16 career games.

  • 1939, Mel Hill, Boston Bruins. Had 10 in 46 games then 6 in 12 playoff games while earning the nickname "Sudden Death".

  • 1936, Buzz Boll, Toronto Maple Leafs. He had a comendable 15 goals in 44 games before more than doubling the second place playoff goal scorer with 7 tallies in 9 games.

  • 1926 Bill "Merlyn" Phillips, Montreal Maroons. One of the least known players to have led the NHL in playoff goals. Phillips scored 3 goals in the Maroons 4 game march to the Cup win. Teammate Punch Broadbent with 2 goals was the only other player to score more than one. Phillips was a late season call-up and had 3 goals in 12 games as a 26 year old rookie. In 20 additional career playof games, Phillips scored 2 goals.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tampa Bay Lightning, On a bit of a roll.

With their four game sweep of Washington, the Tampa Bay Lightning have now won seven consecutive games. T-Bay has beaten up pretty much the entire production of HBO's 24/7 series, having beaten Pittsburgh three straight after going down three games to one. What may surprise is the fact that Tampa Bay is getting terrific all round scoring during the streak in wich they have outscored their opponents 29 to 14. Seven different players have scored at least a point per game over the last seven. The player with the most points over that span, Steve Downie with 11. Most goals, Sean Bergenheim with 6.

Tampa Bay Scoring during 7 Game Win Streak

(Goals Assists Points)

Downie 2-9-11
Lecavalier 4-5-9
Purcell 1-8-9
Moore 2-6-8
Bergenheim 6-1-7
St. Louis 2-5 -7
Gagne 2-5-7
Stamkos 4-1-5
Malone 3-2-5

Roloson 7-0 1.97 GAA .939 SavePct.

Monday, May 2, 2011

44 Years Later, The "Buttock Shot"

Forty-four years. It's now been 44 gosh-darn years since the Toronto Maple Leafs last raised the Stanley Cup. I merely hope it's not going to be that long until the next one. Countless stories have been written about the Leafs last win, I'd guess more has been written about that Cup win than most any other. One thing I had never heard was how the game six winning goal by Jim Pappin was referred to as the "Buttock Shot".

Legendary newspaper man Jim Coleman referred to Pappin's goal as flukey and he probably wasn't to far off. In fact it went in off Montreal defenseman Terry Harper's "derriere". Pete Stemkowski was being wrapped up in front of Gump Worsley by Harper "in an octopus grip" when Pappin sent a back-hand at net from his off wing. According to Coleman, "Harper's hip was jutting directly in the line of Worsley's vision and poor old Gumper didn't see the puck until it was passing him, on it's way into the net."

The Gumper is quoted, "It was a lousy goal, the puck hit somebody and just dropped. It was in before I could move. It was a hell of a (blank) goal to get beaten by. The trouble is that they all count". The goal was originally credited to Stemkowski, and some accounts had it going in off Jacques Laperiere's skate. Pappin himself was as confused as anyone about how it went in. After the game he described it. "I lobbed the puck across the net and it hit Laperriere." Post game, both Harper and Worsley admitted it had bounced off Harper. Harper himself said, "It hit me in front, I can't figure out how it dropped in back of me."

Pappin's mark at 19:24 of the second frame put Toronto up 2-0. Dick Duff would make it 2-1 in the third but the Habs were finished. In an interesting note, the papers of the day after the game mention that the Conn Smythe Trophy would be announced next week and that the past two years it was awarded immediately following the final game. Most believed that Terry Sawchuk was a shoo-in, or perhaps Pappin with his 15 points in 12 games including 4 goals in the final. Of course Dave Keon won the award for his all round play and leadership.

Toronto's Cup win was worth $3,000 per player while Montreal each got $1,500. Each team had received $2,250 per player for their semi-final victories.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Team Canada's Mario Scalzo

Team Canada's roster for the 2011 World Hockey Championships is peppered with some established stars such as Rick Nash, Jason Spezza and Dion Phaneuf as well as great youngsters like Jeff Skinner, John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle and Alex Pietrangelo. And then there's Mario Scalzo.

26 year old defenseman Scalzo is the only player on Team Canada without NHL experience and has played the last three seasons in Europe. In fact he led his German League, Mannheim Eagles squad in scoring this past season with 32 points in 51 games. This is a Mannheim team that also had ex-NHLers Craig MacDonald, Niko Dimitrakos and Steven Reinprecht on the squad.

Scalzo was undrafted but played three years in the AHL with the Iowa Stars and Norfolk Admirals, scoring 33, 25 and 29 points before heading overseas. The native of St.Hubert scored 68 points in the QMJHL with Victoriaville in 03/04 before being traded halfway through the next season to Rimouski for their Memorial Cup run. His teammate there of course was Sidney Crosby. After producing 30 points in 39 games before the trade he exploded for 44 points in 23 games with the Oceanic.

Scalzo has averaged almost 13 minutes of icetime over the first two matches for Canada, least among defensemen and is plus three with two helpers. However, the arrival of Carlo Colaiacovo perhaps puts any additional playing time for Scalzo in doubt. The fact remains however, Mario Scalzo has indeed played for Team Canada.

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