Sunday, November 25, 2012

This Day in 1980's Leaf History; Nov. 25, 1987

Sick of waiting for the asses of the NHL and PA to solve their seemingly minscule differences, I'm going to delve into a topic near and dear to my heart...the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1980's. Why this time period? The Leafs of the 80's were awful. They never had more than 71 points in a season and won only two playoff series. But, this was my childhood and for some reason I still loved them. In lieu of looking at current NHL hockey, let's look at this day in 1980's Leaf history; a decade of crap.

On Wednesday Nov. 25, 1987 Toronto lost 5-3 at the New York Rangers to fall back to .500 for the last time that season. With a 10-10-2 record, they were actually still tied atop the (S)Norris Division with Chicago. The Leafs had scored 95 goals to that point, third most in the entire league.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Leafs was the play of 21 year old, fourth year defender Al Iafrate. Jumping to the NHL as an 18 year old and the fourth overall pick, "Skis" had seasons of 21, 33 and 30 points. He started 1987/88 on fire with 6 points and a +7 rating in the first two games of the season, and by this point in late November Iafrate had 12 goals, 9 assists and 21 points in 22 games. Even more impressive, he was a +17 rating.

However, it was all downhill for Iafrate and the Leafs after that. In the next 15 games before the New Year, Toronto went 4-9-2 and not coicidentally Iafrate cooled off with 2 goals and 8 points. Worse even, he was a -7 in those 15 games.
The second half of the season was even worse.

From January 1st onward, Iafrate's stats were 40-8-15-23 and an amazing MINUS 50 +/- rating.
Toronto stumled along at a 7-30-6 clip to finish with a dismal 52 points. This of course was good enough to snag a playoff spot in the Norris as Minnesota finished with 51 points.

The Leafs took on the first place Red Wings who had 93 points and the results were predicatable.
After surprising Detroit with a 6-2 win in game one, the Wings won 6-2, 6-3 and 8-0 at Maple Leaf Gardens in game four. The Leaf faithful were so disgusted with the latter performance they littered the ice with boos and garbage afterward promting Leaf Todd Gill to comment,"They can boo all they want, but when they start throwing things it gets scary. It's not very nice getting pop thrown in your face and having change bounce off your head."

The Leafs would steal a 6-5 overtime win in game five before dropping a 5-3 game to mercilessly end the 87/88 campaign.

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