Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1967 Maple Leafs, Getting hot at the right time.

The Los Angeles Kings enter the 2012 Stanley Cup Final on a bit of a roll. They are 12-2 in the post season and overall since Jeff Carter played his first game on February 25, they have a record of 25-7-3. There is something to be said for getting hot at the right time of year. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the Toronto Maple Leafs of 1966/67.

On January 14, 1967 the Leafs had posted a record of 17-11-8 and were in third place, 3 points out of first. They then proceeded to go into the tank as few can losing the next 10 games in a row. Every loss but one was decided by two or more goals. By Feb. 8 they had dropped out of a playoff spot and were now 23 points from first place. The Leafs ineptitude is shown in their "scoring" leaders over the 10 game stretch; (there are no readily available game scoring logs from this period, so I had to compile game by game box scores from The Hockey Summary Project

10 Game Losing Streak Jan. 15 thru Feb. 8 (G-A-Pts)
  • Keon 2-3-5
  • Pulford 1-4-5
  • Horton 2-2-4
  • Baun 1-3-4
  • Conacher 2-1-3
  • Shack 2-1-3
  • Jeffrey 1-2-3
  • Walton 1-2-3
  • Pronovost 1-2-3
  • Ellis 1-1-2
  • Mahovlich 1-1-2
  • Stemkowski 1-0-1
  • Stanley 0-1-1
  • Douglas 0-1-1
  • Pappin 0-0-0
On Feb. 11, Toronto finally gained a point in a 4-4 tie with Chicago. The next day they beat Boston 2-1 for their first victory in almost a full month. On Tuesday Feb. 14, coach/GM Punch Imlach had still not seen enough. During a lacklustre practice Imlach chased them off the ice and ordered his team out of Maple Leaf Gardens. They responded the next night by dismantling the New York Rangers by a score of 6-0.

By the next game however, Imlach himself was banished from the Gardens...for health reasons. Suffering from exhaustion, Imlach was slated to spend at least a week in hospital. Assistant General Manager King Clancy stepped behind the bench. "They examined him from stem to gudgeon. He's all right but he's worn out. Punch has been trying to do more than he's able and he couldn't leave his problems at the office." Clancy is quoted by the Canadian Press on Feb. 17. In his autobiography "Over the Boards", Ron Ellis says that when Clancy assembled the line of Jim Pappin, Bob Pulford and Pete Stemkowski the team really got going. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that line did more than their share in helping to right the good ship Maple Leaf;

King Clancy takes over Feb. 18 thru Mar. 11
10 Games (7-1-2)
  • Stemkowski 5-10-15
  • Pulford 5-7-12
  • Pappin 6-5-11
  • Keon 3-7-10
  • Mahovlich 1-8-9
  • Armstrong 2-5-7
  • Horton 2-5-7
  • Ellis 2-0-2
  • Kelly 1-1-2

On March 12, upon Imlach's return behind the bench, the Leafs were shutout by Chicago and would go 6 and 5 in the final 11 regular season games. Of course, the playoffs saw the line of Pappin, Stemkowski and Pulford continue their terrific play as they finished 1,2,3 in scoring. The numbers are over-whelming when looking at their numbers after the line was put together;

Maple Leafs Final 33 Games including Playoffs (21-10-2)
  • Stemkowski 12-25-37
  • Pappin 18-14-32
  • Pulford 10-22-32
  • Mahovlich 8-21-29
  • Keon 10-15-25
  • Horton 6-13-19
  • Ellis 9-9-18
  • Armstrong 6-10-16 (29gp)
  • Kelly 4-11-15
In a season that saw only three men average at least one point per game (Mikita, Hull, Ullman) the production of this line over what amounts to almost half a season is quite impressive. This is not to say that King Clancy's line juggling was the sole reason the Leafs caught fire to win the Cup, of course not. This along with Imlach's banishing of the players during a practice in February are just a few of the factors in a championship run that lives on in history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

20 years ago today, last time a Leaf farm team in the final

On May 29, 1992 the St. John's Maple Leafs lost Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals to the Adirondack Red Wings. After defeating the Wings 5-2 in Game 6 in Adirondack, the tables were turned with a 5-2 home loss for the Cup. The amazing thing about the seven game series was each and every game was won by the road team.

The series was a battle between once and future Toronto Maple Leaf goaltenders. Allan Bester led Adirondack to the Cup and was named MVP of the playoffs finishing with 14-5 record and 2.56 GAA. The Baby Leafs were backstopped by Damian Rhodes and Felix Potvin. The respective coaches were Marc Crawford for St. John's and Barry Melrose for Adirondack.

Potvin single-handedly pushed the series to a seventh game by absolutely stealing game six in upstate New York. The Cat turned aside 50 Red Wings shots including all 18 in the third period, while Bester allowed the only two Leaf shots in the first period to beat him and stopped a mere 13 of 17 shots for the game. Two nights later back on The Rock, Bester was back on his game as the ex-Toronto goaltender stopped 45 of 47 St.John's shots.

Game seven was opened by a goal from Adirondack's Mike Sillinger who would add two assists later in the game. Mike Eastwood tied it with 12 seconds left in the opening period and Yanick Perreault gave St.John's a lead halfway through the second which held up into the third period. That's when the wheels fell off for the Leafs. Adirondack tied it on a goal by Chris Tancill five minutes into the final stanza then took a two goal lead on markers by Sheldon Kennedy and Gary Shuchuk. Micah Avizoff potted the 5-2 empty-netter with 8 seconds left. Sillinger led the AHL in post season scoring with 29 points over 15 games.

This would of course be the last time a Maple Leaf affiliated team made it to a championship round. The following season, Barry Melrose would coach the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals, defeating in the Semi-Finals Felix Potvin and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chris Kreider's obscure record.

Last game, the good folks at Hockey Night in Canada flashed up a quick graphic and made mention of a little known record that Rangers rookie Chris Kreider tied with his fourth playoff goal. His four equal the most scored in a post season by a player who had not previously played a regular season match. Pretty obscure, but pretty cool. The only other player to score four goals prior to playing in the regular season was Montreal Canadien Eddie Mazur. The two guys that scored three goals were Oiler Ray Cote and current Capitas GM, George McPhee with the Rangers.

Now, I have been an in depth follower of hockey for over 30 years and even though I was a mere 12 year old punk in 1983 and a Gretzky idolizer, the name Ray Cote rang only the smallest bell in the depths of my hockey recollections. Cote signed as a free-agent after a fairly productive junior career which ended with an 88 point season for the Calgary Wranglers in 80/81. After a full season in Wichita of the CHL he blossomed with the Oilers AHL squad in Moncton producing 91 points in 82/83. Called up to the big club as a 'black ace' he ended up on a terrific checking line with Dave Hunter and Pat Hughes. He played 14 of the Oilers 16 playoff games contributing 3 goals and 2 assists. He would play 15 regular season games with the Oilers over the next two years without collecting a point.

Eddie Mazur ended up playing 14 games over three consecutive playoff years (1951, 52, 53) before finally cracking the Canadiens regular season lineup. While playing for Victoria Cougars of the WHL and Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, he helped the big club in the playoffs each year with 4 goals and 6 points over those three post-seasons. In 1952/53 he had 2 goals and 4 points in 7 games of Montreal's Cup victory run. The following season he finally made his regular season debut and had 21 points over 67 games. He played parts of two more seasons before making the high minors his home for the remainder of his career. 

 George McPhee signed as a free agent after a stellar college career with Bowling Green, then scored a point per game with Tulsa in the CHL before getting the call from the Rangers in the 1983 playoffs. He played all nine games, contributing 3 goals and 6 points. He spent the majority of the following year still with Tulsa, but finally debuted with 2 points in 9 NHL games. By 1984/85 McPhee had 27 points in 49 games in his true NHL rookie campaign.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jonathan Quick; Yep he's hot

Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov allowed 37 goals while playing 11 playoff games this season. In his 11 playoff games, Jonathan Quick has given up a mere 16 goals. In fact it has taken Quick 23 games to give up his last 37 goals... dating back to March 11.

Since that date, Quick has a record of 18-3-2, 5 shutouts with a goals against average of 1.59 and a .944 save percentage.
His playoff won/lost record of 10-1 is approaching legendary territory. The greatest single post-season Won/Lost records in history are as follows:

  • Grant Fuhr 1988, 16-2
  • Grant Fuhr 1985, 15-3
  • Billy Smith 1982, 15-3
  • Ken Dryden 1978, 12-3
  • Ken Dryden 1977, 12-2
  • Ken Dryden 1976, 12-1
  • Gerry Cheevers 1970, 12-1
  • Jacques Plante 1960, 8-0
  • Terry Sawchuk 1952, 8-0
  • Bill Durnan 1946, 8-1
  • Bill Durnan 1944, 8-1

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bobby Orr, 14 year old All-Star

I'm reading a biography on Ron Ellis titled "Over the Boards" and there is mention of Ellis making the Second All-Star squad in the 1962/63 Metro Toronto Junior A Hockey League. The league was an off-shoot of the Ontario Hockey Association created by Maple Leaf owner Stafford Smythe. It was basically a "house league" for the Toronto Maple Leaf sponsored Marlboros and St. Michael's Majors (which then became the Neil McNeil Maroons). Joining Ellis on the All-Star team was a 14 year old Robert Gordon Orr. This was Orr's first season of junior hockey, he stood 5' 6" and weighed 135 lbs. Playing against mainly 19 and 20 year olds, Orr's brilliance still shone through.

The 62/63 All-Star Teams (age in brackets)

First Team

Gary Dineen C Neil McNeil Maroons 38-32-63-95 (19)
Mike Corbett W Neil McNeil Maroons 37-44-50-94 (20)
Duncan MacDonald W Toronto Marlboros 26-20-15-35 (20)
Jim McKendry D Neil McNeil Maroons 34-2-17-19 (na)
Frank Ridley D Toronto Marlboros 39-11-39-50 (20)
Dave Kelly G Knob Hill Farmers 3.85 GAA (19)

Second Team

Ron Ellis W Toronto Marlboros 36-21-22-43 (17)
Terry Vail C Oshawa Generals 35-28-24-52 (20)
Grant Moore W Toronto Marlboros 36-26-30-56 (19)
Rod Seiling D Neil McNeil Maroons 38-29-48-77 (18)
Bobby Orr D Oshawa Generals 34-6-15-21 (14)
Gary Smith G Neil McNeil Maroons 2.35 GAA (19)

 14 year-old Bobby Orr.

While checking up on the early career of Orr, I found a few pics of him I had not seen before. On December 14, 1965 Orr suited up for the Toronto Marlboros with a few other OHA All-Stars to take on the touring Russian National team. After defeating Canada's National squad 4-0 and 8-6, the Soviets played the OHA junior All-Stars at Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 14,886 patrons. 

The All-Stars opened the scoring on a beautiful pass from Orr to Niagara Falls Flyer Ted Snell. They took a 3-1 lead into the second period on goals by Peterborough Petes, Andre Lacroix and Danny Grant. The Russians, led by Anatoli Firsov, Alexander Ragulin, Viacheslav Starshinov and Vladimir Vikulov stormed back to win 4-3 outshooting the All-Stars 35-30. Bobby Orr was named player of the game for the All-Stars.

 Program of the OHA All-Stars vs Russia match.

 Bobby Orr wearing the uniform of the Toronto Marlboros.

Roster for the OHA 1965 All-Star Team vs. Russia
Joey Bamford, Fort William
Bob Whidden, Marlies
Bobby Orr, Oshawa
Brian Glennie, Marlies
Serge Savard, Montreal
Jim McKenny, Marlies
Doug Dunville, Marlies
Gerry Meehan, Marlies
Jean Pronovost, Niagara Falls
Danny O'Shea, Oshawa
Al Osborne, Marlies
Jim Keon, Marlies
Barry Watson, Marlies
Mike Corrigan, Marlies
Ted Snell, Niagara Falls
Mike Byers, Marlies
Derek Sanderson, Niagara Falls
Don Marcotte, Niagara Falls
Neil Clarke, London
Andre Lacroix, Peterboro
Danny Grant, Peterboro

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Marty Magic

The amazing Martin Brodeur advances to the Stanley Cup semi-finals for the first time in ten years, and shows no signs of slowing down. On top of an 8-3 record and 2.05 GAA, Brodeur has now equalled the record for most points in a playoff year by a goaltender with 3 assists. Below are the goalies that have accomplished this.
  • Martin Brodeur, NJ, 2012
  • Glen Healy, NYI 1993
  • Kirk McLean, Van 1993
  • Tom Barrasso, Pit  1993
  • Grant Fuhr, Edm 1985
  • Grant Fuhr, Edm 1984
  • Ken Dryden, Mon  1979
  • Gilles Gilbert, Bos  1974
It has been almost 20 years since a goalie collected three helpers in the playoffs. Coincidentally it happened three times in 1993. A look at the circumstances of each of the record holding helpers:

Gilbert 1974
Apr 13 Bos 6, Tor 3
Cashman (Hodge, Gilbert) (EV)
Apr 21 Bos 8, Chi 6
O’Reilly (Smith, Gilbert) (EV)
Apr 25 Bos 5, Chi 2
Esposito (Hodge, Gilbret) (PP)

Dryden 1979
Apr 18 Mon 5, Tor 1
Lafleur (Larouche, Dryden) (EV)
May 8 Bos 5, Mon 2
Mondou (Lambert, Dryden) (EV)
May 17 Mon 4, NYR 1
Lemaire (Shutt, Dryden) (EV)

Fuhr 1984
Apr 4 Edm 9, Win 2
Hunter  (McClelland, Fuhr) (EV)
Apr 12 Edm 5 Cal 2
Gretzky  (Coffey, Fuhr) (EN)
Apr 20 Edm 4 Cal 3
Linseman (Gretzky, Fuhr) (SH)

Fuhr 1985
Apr 20 Edm 5 Win 2
Gretzky (Coffey, Fuhr) (PP)
Apr 23 Edm 5 Win 4
Anderson  (Messier, Fuhr) (EV)
May 14 Edm 10 Chi 5
Gretzky (Coffey, Fuhr) (EV)

Barrasso 1993
Apr 20 Pit 7 NJ 0
Lemieux (Samuelsson U, Barrasso) (SH)
Mullen  (Francis, Barrasso) (EV)
May 12 NYI 7  Pit 5
Lemieux (Samuelsson U, Barrasso) (EV)

McLean 1993
Apr 19 Van 4  Win 2
Linden (Courtnall, McLean) (EV)
May 5  LA 6  Van 3
Bure (Slegr, McLean) (EV)
May 9 Van 7  LA 2
Adams  (Lumme, McLean) (PP)

Healy 1993
Apr 28 NYI 5 Was 3
Green (Mullen, Healy) (EV)
May 14 NYI 4  Pit3
Hogue (Malakhov, Healy) (EV)
May 18 Mon 4 NYI 3
Thomas (Healy) (EV)

Brodeur 2012
Apr 13 NJ 3  Fla 2
Zubrus (Clarkson, Brodeur) (PP)
Apr 19 NJ 4 Fla 0
Bernier (Gionta, Brodeur) (EV)
May 6 NY 4  Phil 2
Zubrus (Fayne, Brodeur) (EN)

Amazingly, of the 24 assists only 2 of them were on Empty Net goals. 4 of them were on powerplays and 2 were shorthanded, and yes, Tom Barrasso earned two assists in a game against the Devils in 1993. Martin Brodeur has at least four games left to break the record, I'm thinking he'll have alot more than that though.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Greatest Rookie Playoff Scoring, The 1981 North Stars

Every time I watch a Philadelphia Flyers game in this years' playoffs it seems they are getting some sort of scoring from their fantastic group of rookie players. The combination of Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Erik Gustafsson have collected 10 goals and 19 total points so far over 9 games, far and away the most any playoff team has received from rookies this playoff.
How does the Flyers rookie contingent rank in terms of playoff rookie scoring contribution of the past? Pretty darn good, but far from the best. Recently, Flyer Ville Leino notched 19 points in the 2010 playoffs and before him, Jeremy Roenick had 18 for Chicago in 1990. Joe Mullen for St. Louis and Barry Pederson of Boston each had 18 points in 1982, and Don Maloney notched 19 points for the Rangers in 1979. All of these guys were pretty much the only rookie on their respective squads that contributed much at all. A great example of a team that had multiple rookies chipping in was the 1986 Canadiens.
Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, Kjell Dahlin, Brian Skrudland David Maley and Mike Lalor were all rookies, and all important parts of a Cup winner. Collectively they had an amazing 20 goals and 39 points. A few years before, the New York Islanders were aided by the dynamic rookie duo of Patrick Flatley and Pat LaFontaine. These two put up 12 goals and 24 points.
By far the playoff team with the largest scoring contribution from rookies in at least the last 40 years is the 1981 Minnesota North Stars. Led by playoff rookie points record-setter (14 goals, 21 points) Dino Ciccarelli, their rookie contingent had a ridiculous 34 goals and 65 points. On the way to a surprising appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals the North Stars boasted, in addition to Ciccarelli and Kevin Maxwell an entire rookie line of Neal Broten centering Steve Christoff and Brad Palmer. For good measure, Minny had rookie goaltender Don  Beaupre play in 6 games. Understandably, the press ate it up with headlines like "Rookies Shine for North Stars" and "Rookies not out of place".On May 5 just prior to going up 3 games to 1 on Calgary in the Semi-Finals the Canadian Press quoted Brad Palmer about the reason for the rookie success;
"Rookies don't really realize what the Stanley Cup is all about. More are just trying to impress the coach and get a position for next year. I know I'm scared that, if I don't produce now, it will hurt my chances of making the team next year. The older guys are just great in building confidence, I live at Al McAdam's home and he makes you feel like you've been in the league for 10 years."
Perhaps Palmer was right, rookies just can't appreciate the pressure they're under in a Cup run. They've never been there, and they expect it to happen every year. Unfortunately for four of these rookies, the '81 run was their best and last shot at a Cup. Only Neal Broten would go on to win one with New Jersey, and it took him until age 35. Brad Palmer, would finish his career playing mainly in Europe over the next decade. He was however part of a trade with Boston on draft day in 1982 assuring the Bruins would NOT draft Brian Bellows, letting him slip to Minnesota.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

45 Years ago today...and counting.

I'll be 85 years old if it takes another 45 for the Toronto Maple Leafs to win a Stanley Cup. I certainly hope it doesn't take that long. Below are a few quotes from the Montreal Gazette and Canadian Press of May 3, 1967 after Toronto had beaten Montreal for their last Stanley Cup.

  • "You've got Expo so let us have the Stanley Cup."- Leaf playoff points leader Jim Pappin joking with Montreal writers after the game.

  • "I can't fault my players for a game like this. They worked hard but the puck wouldn't go in." - Canadien coach Toe Blake

  • "The Old Boys A.C. played pretty well tonight. It was a great team effort." - Leaf coach,  Punch Imlach

  • "I wanted all our old guys to enjoy this one, this may have been their last game together." - Imlach on why injured and unable to play Johnny Bower was dressed as well as back-up goalie Al Smith.

  • "We might not have outplayed them but we certainly outscored them."- Leaf Captain George Armstrong

  • "This is the toughest series I ever lost."- Toe Blake

  • "I don't think that I'll even turn up at the office this Thursday."- Punch Imlach commenting on the fact the Leafs Cup win was their fourth Tuesday in a row with a playoff victory while losing 4 consecutive Thursdays in a row.

  • "Maybe we had better teams in those years (1962,1963,1964) but this win gives me a greater deal of satisfaction. We kept coming back against both Chicago and Montreal."- Dave Keon, Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

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